Archive for the 2012 Category

For Rats’ Eyes Only: THE RATS (2002)

Posted in 2012, Animals Attack, Disease!, For Rats' Eyes Only, LL Soares Reviews, Rats, TV-Movies with tags , , , , on January 24, 2013 by knifefighter

FOR RATS’ EYES ONLY: Reviews of Movies About Rats


Presents:

THE RATS (2002)

Review by L.L. Soares

TheRats_2002_PosterJust when you thought it was safe to sit on the toilet! Up come the rats from the sewer!

That’s the thing about these pesky rodents. Once they start popping up, they seem to be everywhere, as Madchen Amick finds out in THE RATS (2002), which plays on the fears people who live in big cities have about rat infestations. It all begins simply enough in a Manhattan department store called Garsons, where a customer in a dressing room is bitten by something under a pile of clothes. The store manager, Susan Costello (Madchen Amick, probably best known as Shelly Johnson on TWIN PEAKS from 1990 -1991, although she’s been in a ton of television shows and movies since), tells the girl that she must have cut her finger on a floor tack, but she should have it checked out. Not long afterwards, Susan gets a call from the hospital, and when she goes to visit the woman, she finds out that it’s clear that it’s a bite and the woman is dying from a disease that is spread by rats.

Susan’s boss, Ms. Page (Sheila Mccarthy), is in a panic when she thinks about how such publicity could affect their department store. She tells Susan to fire the store’s exterminators and hire the best in the city, and in comes Jack Carver (Vincent Spano), a handsome rat specialist who knows how to play the game with the Health Department (he’s friends with the guy in charge) and is well-versed in keeping things discreet. Except, the rat problem turns out to be much bigger than anyone expected.

Meanwhile, Susan and her daughter Amy (Daveigh Chase) see a rat outside their apartment window, and soon afterwards, the local swimming pool where Amy goes to swim has a rat attack (they come out of the air vents), revealing that the problem extends to several city blocks.

Beware, THE RATS are coming!

Beware, THE RATS are coming!

As Susan and Jack find themselves getting increasingly attracted to each other, they also team up to investigate how bad the infestation is. This involves such interesting scenes as Jack and his partner Ty (Shawn Michael Howard) using ultra-violet light to uncover where rat droppings are throughout the store after hours, when the lights are out. As they discover false walls and secret passageways that were long covered up, the three of them eventually end up in the basement, which is a breeding ground for the vicious vermin, who have started attacking people (just ask the superintendent of Susan’s apartment building, who gets gobbled up by the rats). And there’s also the use of a cool bomb-defusing robot that is used to explore the subterranean lair of the rats, and uses it camera eyes to send back visuals to the people above.

We learn lots of interesting things, like rats are constantly chewing hard things to keep their teeth from growing too big for their mouths (their “chew toys” include metal and concrete) and that they’re constantly incontinent (thus the droppings everywhere). By the time Jack, Ty and Susan have tracked the rats’ origins down to a deserted lab that was doing medical experiments on them (that made them stronger and more aggressive), it looks like the entire city might be in danger.

If rats make you squeamish, you might not like the scene where a rat tries to push its way up out of a toilet while Amy gets ready for her bath. Or thousands of rats plummeting onto a subway train, bringing it to a stop and pouring inside the open windows. Or the big finale that involves a huge, drained swimming pool full of what looks like millions of rodents.

Machen Amick takes a swim in a pool full of rats in THE RATS.

Machen Amick takes a swim in a pool full of rats in THE RATS.

THE RATS was originally a TV-movie, but there’s some nudity early on that was obviously added for the European market, which isn’t as uptight as America is. The acting is decent for this kind of throwaway movie, and the rats look scary enough (it’s a mix of real rats and CGI effects, with enough real ones to make it convincing). The script is simple enough— rats are discovered and exterminator tracks them down, with a love story added— but it works. Director John Lafia keeps things suspenseful, and there are some good moments toward the end when you might feel a shiver or two as the rats pile up.

Not a great rat movie, or a great movie in general, but above-average for what started as a TV-movie. I liked it for what it was, and I’ve always liked Madchen Amick, so it was good to see her in a lead role here.

I give it two and a half out of five rats.

© Copyright 2013 by L.L. Soares

THE REMOTE OUTPOST LOOKS FORWARD, THEN BACK AT 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Alien Worlds, Based on Classic Films, Mark Onspaugh Columns, Prequels, Remote Outpost, Science Fiction, Television, TV Shows with tags , , , , , , , on January 16, 2013 by knifefighter

You find yourself on a barren and desolate world, light years from anything or anyone you know… Without much food or water, your oxygen running low, you strike out for the distant hills… After days of torturous climbing, you see an oasis below. An installation of quonset huts bedecked with hundreds of television antennae. Congratulations, Traveler, you’ve reachedTHE REMOTE OUTPOST.

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THE REMOTE OUTPOST LOOKS FORWARD, THEN BACK
By Mark Onspaugh

Well, the holidays have come to an end at the old Remote Outpost. The freeze-dried Christmas tree has been vacu-packed, the electronic menorah has been powered down and reintegrated into the antenna array, and the powdered eggnog and dehydrated turkey are on order for next year.

Now that the snart herds have moved to the Seventh Crater and the triffids are dormant, it’s time to reflect on that most marvelous technological advancement, television. We’ll try to adopt a more positive air going into 2013, at least on this rainy afternoon. (Besides, a “Worst Of” list would take many times the word count I am allowed.)

5 SHOWS THAT MAKE ME DROOL WITH ANTICIPATION

New shows are on the horizon, and some of them sound just peachy. Here are the ones I am most excited about:

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BANSHEE (Premieres January 11, Cinemax). Alan Ball has become one of those names you look for. He wrote the screenplay for the movie AMERICAN BEAUTY back in 1999, and has since been the creative force behind the television series SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005) and TRUE BLOOD (2008 – Present). I am a big fan of TRUE BLOOD and recently came under the spell of SIX FEET UNDER (see below). So when I heard Ball was executive producing a new series, I got downright twitterpated. BANSHEE concerns an ex (or escaped) con who poses as the (murdered) sheriff in the Amish community of Banshee. As with other projects with Ball at the helm, the secrets our protagonist keeps are just the tip of the iceberg in Banshee. One of the characters is named Mr. Rabbit, who will be played by Ben Cross. Mr. Cross portrayed Sarek, Spock’s father, in the STAR TREK reboot of 2009. He also stars in the upcoming JACK THE GIANT KILLER (2013), which is NOT to be confused with JACK THE GIANT SLAYER (also 2013)—that stars Ewan McGregor. It looks like it’ll be Brits vs Scots in the land of the giants.

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BATES MOTEL (Premieres March 18, A&E). A psychological thriller that will give background on Robert Bloch’s beloved psycho. Hitchcock’s 1960 film is the initial inspiration, but beyond that, the producers will not be a slave to it or its sequels. The show is not, as one critic suggested, “How I Stuffed My Mother.” Besides Norman’s mother and her lover, the townspeople will also play a role in Norman’s descent into madness, and producers promise it won’t all be black and white, connect the dots. Norman Bates will be played by Freddie Highmore, the young actor so wonderful in FINDING NEVERLAND (2004), CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (2005) and AUGUST RUSH (2007). Freddie has grown up, and actually looks like a young Tony Perkins. Norman’s mother will be portrayed by Vera Farmiga, who promises mother Norma Bates will be both sympathetic and layered. We all know Vera from such films as THE DEPARTED (2006), JOSHUA (2007), SOURCE CODE (2011) and the upcoming THE CONJURING (2013). BATES MOTEL is produced by Carlton Cuse of LOST (2004-2010) and Kerry Ehrin of FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (2006-2011).

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DEFIANCE (Premieres April 15, Syfy). A lush science fiction drama where Earth has been remade into an almost alien world by extraterrestrial visitors who were denied permission to settle. After a long and costly war with humanity, the two species now live in an uneasy peace and try to make the Earth habitable for both. Defiance is the name of the town in the ruins of St. Louis, and where our protagonist, Jeb Nolan becomes head sheriff. There he must contend with humans, aliens, military types and various dangerous characters. From the trailers I’ve seen, this will be no cheap-looking, terrible CGI suck-fest. It is tied in with a game, but what show isn’t multi-platforming these days? Hopefully the writing will give us another BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (2004-2009) or SGU STARGATE UNIVERSE (2009-2011).

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BATTLESTAR GALACTICA: BLOOD AND CHROME (Premieres February 10, Syfy). I was around when Glen A. Larson first introduced us to Cylons and humans whose names were the same as some of our more ancient gods and goddesses. I didn’t much care for the show, but watched it because I was starved for SF on TV. When the (then Sci-Fi Channel’s) remake was announced for 2004, I just shook my head and chuckled. I ignored it, until a friend hit me over the head with the DVD’s. I quickly became an ardent fan, and was sad when the (regrettable) ending aired. Now we have a chance to visit that universe again, as we see young “Husker” Adama and his friends in the first war with the Cylons, before the skin jobs made the scene. Like the many incarnations of STAR TREK, I anxiously wait for the chance to geek out in a world that is interesting and well-formed. Here’s hoping it’s as good as its predecessor.

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VIKINGS (Premieres March 3 on History). Cable has often found fertile ground in examining (often in lurid detail) historical events, places or infamous families. DEADWOOD (2004-2006), THE TUDORS (2007-2010) and THE BORGIAS (2011 – Present) gave us all the scandal, gore and sex we were never taught in history class but always suspected (or hoped) was there. While perhaps not wholly accurate, all these shows had/have sumptuous production values, good writing and acting. Now comes the saga of Ragnar Lothbrok, who, legend has it, was descended from Odin himself. VIKINGS will be produced for the History Channel, who brought us that bang-up version of the feud of the HATFIELDS AND McCOYS (2012). VIKINGS was created by Michael Hirst, who created the aforementioned TUDORS, and one of its stars will be Gabriel Byrne, who has been in such movies as STIGMATA (1998), END OF DAYS (1999) SPIDER (2002) and GHOST SHIP (2002). By Odin’s eye I will be there!

WELCOME TO THE PARTY, PAL!

If I’m wrong, I am usually man enough to admit it. Two shows I came late to the party for are THE BIG BANG THEORY and SIX FEET UNDER (2001-2005).

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BIG BANG is shown initially on CBS (on Thursdays at 8pm EST), and then rerun about a billion times a day on TBS and Fox. Even though I love science fiction, pop culture and DC comics (all of which BB has in buckets and bales), I thought the character of Sheldon Cooper (portrayed by Jim Parsons) was just too two-dimensional. A friend of mine is very devoted to the show, and kept tempting me with anecdotes about appearances by Wil Wheaton as an evil version of himself (Wil was the much-loved or despised character of Wesley Crusher on STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, 1987-1994), and a Spock action figure voiced by Leonard Nimoy himself. I finally watched the show for more than one episode, and found that Parsons is quite brilliant. It’s not easy to portray such an unlikeable character and make him endearing. I have to admit, when he approached Penny (about her intending to break up with his roommate) and said, “Please don’t hurt my friend,” I actually teared up. The entire ensemble is terrific, and there are lots of references to physics, DC superheroes, Star Trek, Star Wars and sex —and who doesn’t love one or all of those things?

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SIX FEET UNDER is no longer with us, but lives on in DVD form. Created by Alan Ball, it revolves around the Fishers, a family who owns a small but honest funeral home in L.A. Patriarch Nathaniel Fisher is killed in a bus crash while driving one of the family hearses. Though dead, Nathaniel often appears to council or annoy one of his family, and is played by the amazing Richard Jenkins (THE VISITOR 2001, CABIN IN THE WOODS 2011, JACK REACHER 2012). His family includes son Nate (Peter Krause of THE LOST ROOM, 2006 and currently on the NBC drama PARENTHOOD), son David (Michael C. Hall, now the star of DEXTER), daughter Claire (Lauren Ambrose of the recent remake of COMA 2012) and wife Ruth (Frances Conroy of AMERICAN HORROR STORY). Each episode begins with a death (not always the one you expect) and that corpse’s impact on one or more of the family and/or staff. At times, the deceased will interact with a character. In addition, a huge funeral home conglomerate is trying to put the Fishers out of business, and each member of the family has secrets that are coming to light.

IT’S SO HARD TO SAY GOODBYE, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, GOOD NIGHT

Two of my favorite shows are saying “adieu” this year (inarticulate sobbing here)…

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One is FRINGE (Fox, Fridays 9pm EST), which began in 2008 as a sort of new take on THE X-FILES (1993-2002) but evolved more into a love story and a search for redemption. Though complex, I never felt lost in the mythology as I came to be with THE X-FILES. The central core of characters Agent Olivia Dunham, Peter Bishop, Walter Bishop and Astrid Farnsworth are all wonderfully played by Anna Torv, Joshua Jackson, John Noble and Jasika Nicole, and ably supported by Blair Brown as Nina Sharp, Lance Reddick as Philip Broyles and Leonard Nimoy as Dr. William Bell. Noble as Walter is one of the great characters of recent SF TV, a genius and mad scientist who had parts of his brain cut out so he would not become evil and callous, unlike his counterpart on a parallel Earth. The elective surgery has left a man with a taste for sweets, inappropriate sexual banter and a craving for LSD and music of the 60s and 70s. If you never gave this series a try, do so. I, for one, will sorely miss it.

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BREAKING BAD took one episode to hook all of us here at the Outpost. It concerns a high school chemistry teacher who discovers he has cancer. Looking to make money to pay for his treatment (and to take care of his family once he is gone), Walter White (the just awesome Bryan Cranston, once the father on MALCOLM IN THE MIDDLE 2000-2006) turns to making meth with a former student, Jesse Pinkman, portrayed by Aaron Paul. And he’s real good at it. His product is so good it’s soon drawing the attention of tweakers, dealers, cartel members and DEA agents. Complicating matters is the fact that his brother-in-law works for the DEA, and is not the lunkhead he seems to be. What is fascinating is how Cranston essays a good man who gets into a dirty business, and transforms over time from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde… This is not only someone who becomes evil, he enjoys it. BREAKING BAD airs on AMC (the last episodes of the final season will be airing soon), but you’ll want to watch it from the beginning.

I’ll close out this year-end wrap-up with a list of shows I think are well worth your time:

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BOARDWALK EMPIRE (HBO) —A bloody and dark series about Atlantic City in the 20s and the rise of organized crime, with Steve Buscemi at the center of it all.

GAME OF THRONES (HBO) —Warring kingdoms, sex, gore, dire wolves, dragons and things undead. What’s not to love?

THE WALKING DEAD (AMC) —A wonderful series where the living are just as important as the living dead, with brilliant makeup, effects and many WTF! moments.

JUSTIFIED (FX) —A Federal Marshall returns to rural Kentucky in this bitchin’ series from the mind of Elmore Leonard. Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are lawman and outlaw who were boyhood pals. Brilliant.

SONS OF ANARCHY (FX) —Hamlet on Harleys. Also brilliant.

ARROW (CW) —Green Arrow without the Smallville soapiness.

THE NEIGHBORS (ABC) —A very human family moves to a cul-de-sac filled with aliens. The seemingly one-joke premise continues to be inventive, delightful and hilarious.

BOB’S BURGERS (FOX) —My favorite animated show. Unattractive characters (literally) and hilarious send-ups of family sitcom sweetness.

SHAMELESS (SHO) — The saga of the Gallaghers, who are grifters living by their wits in Chicago. Many of their efforts are often derailed by the worst of the lot, their patriarch, played by William H. Macy. A U.S. version of a Brit show, and hilarious.

LUTHER (BBC America) —Idris Elba is amazing as a British detective in this dark and inventive series.

FACE-OFF (Syfy) —The only reality show I watch—sure, some of the drama is manufactured through writing and editing, but the contestants come up with amazing effects makeup—without CGI!

© Copyright 2012 by Mark Onspaugh

Jenny Orosel’s TOP SIX DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, David Cronenberg, Jenny Orosel Columns, Worst-Of lists with tags , , , , , , on January 13, 2013 by knifefighter

MY TOP SIX DISAPPOINTMENTS OF 2012
By Jenny Orosel

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6-The Netflix DVD for CABIN IN THE WOODS didn’t have the audio commentary

A small complaint, but I was really looking forward hearing what Whedon had to say.  Damn, you Netflix!  Damn you!

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5-SINISTER (2012)

It could have been a great movie.  But instead of taking the “found footage” subgenre into new directions, it was predictable and seemed like most of what they did had been done before.  That said, I realize I am one of about six people in the world who didn’t like SINISTER, so perhaps someone had urinated in my Cheerios that morning.  I might give it a chance again sometime, but my disappointment was so strong it will be a while before I’m willing to sit through it again.

Has director David Cronenberg abandoned "body horror" forever?

Has director David Cronenberg abandoned “body horror” forever?

4-2012 was the year I gave up on two of my favorite horror directors ever returning to the genre: David Cronenberg and Peter Jackson.

Sure, Cronenberg’s still has style.  But first he went all action movie with A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE (2005) and EASTERN PROMISES (2007).  This year came A DANGEROUS METHOD (technically 2011) and CHRONOPOLIS (2012), two almost exclusively cerebral movies and polar opposite his signature “horrors of the flesh” philosophy that made films like SHIVERS (1975) and VIDEODROME (1983) classics of the genre.  No one can do that kind of horror the way he could, and I miss that.

THE HOBBIT? No BAD TASTE or DEAD ALIVE!

THE HOBBIT? No BAD TASTE or DEAD ALIVE!

Peter Jackson followed the LORD OF THE RINGS TRILOGY with KING KONG (2005) and THE LOVELY BONES (2009).  He’s shown that he’s interested in dark works, but both are so well-polished and well funded they lean more toward LOTR than, say, MEET THE FEEBLES (1989).  Now I find he’s going to follow his HOBBIT trilogy with a TINTIN movie (2015).  I lost all hope for another BRAINDEAD (1992, also known as DEAD ALIVE) or BAD TASTE (1987).  And that’s a shame, because he seemed to be the last director out there who had a childlike sense of fun about grit, slime and general grossness.

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3-AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM (2012)

I loved the first AHS season.  I will be the first to admit that it wasn’t anything groundbreaking.  But it was a great combination of ghost story and soap opera, a sort of PEYTON PLACE for the horror crowd, and fun Wednesday night entertainment after the Tiny Human had gone to bed.  The second season tried way too hard to be Important with a capital “I”.  There were Statements to be made, and Issues to make people aware of.  Unfortunately, they tried to put too many into the series and cluttered it up so much that, even compared to the archetypes of the first season, there was no character development beyond what was barely needed to get from scene A to scene B.  By the time I gave up on the show halfway through I felt like I was being yelled at by someone who read one Yahoo news article and now thinks they’re an expert.  If there’s a third season I hope they bring back the guilty fun of the first.

Ray Bradbury and friend.

Ray Bradbury and friend

2-Ray Bradbury wasn’t immortal.

Growing up in Los Angeles, he was a fixture of the city.  He never passed up an opportunity to help out a library, and even after his stroke when he was mostly deaf and partially blind, he gave a lively and inspiring lecture at the Encino library on Venture Boulevard, and as the night wore on and he was visibly exhausted, he still took the time to give a kind word to each of his fans and sign a book or two.  He wasn’t just an example of how to behave as a writer, but as a human being.  I cried when I heard he passed.  Godspeed, you Prince of Awesome.

Where oh where are the SONS OF EL TOPO?

1-SONS OF EL TOPO still hasn’t been filmed!!

© Copyright 2013 by Jenny Orosel

(Jenny writes the regular column “Meals for Monsters” here at Cinema Knife Fight)

The Geisha of Gore’s TOP MOVIES OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Apocalyptic Films, Art Movies, Asian Horror, Best Of Lists, Colleen Wanglund Reviews, Gangsters!, Geisha of Gore Reviews, Martial Arts, Yakuza Films with tags , , , , , on January 12, 2013 by knifefighter

The Geisha of Gore’s Top Movies of 2012
By Colleen Wanglund

I don’t go to see new movies very often…in fact it’s rare.  Most of my theater-going experiences involve midnight screenings of older and classic films.  This past year, however, I did go to quite a few new movie screenings, mostly because of the New York Asian Film Festival this past summer.  Anyway, here are the movies I loved from 2012, in no particular order.

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VULGARIA (Hong Kong 2012) A truly laugh-out-loud comedy starring Chapman To about what one producer went through to get his porn film made, VULGARIA was an opening-night screening at Lincoln Center during the New York Asian Film Festival.  It included a Q&A with the film’s writer and director, Pang Ho-Cheung, who informed the sold-out crowd that the movie is based on true events.  I was very impressed with the fact that nothing was lost in the subtitled translation.

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THE RAID (Indonesia 2011) This film didn’t screen in the US until 2012 so it counts.  Written and directed by Welshman Gareth Evans, THE RAID stars Iko Uwais as Rama, an idealistic young cop who is along for a raid against a major drug lord’s stronghold—a whole apartment building full of (mostly) criminals.  The film is full of non-stop action, mostly of the martial arts variety.  It’s beautifully choreographed and there are a few nice surprises thrown into the story.

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TORMENTED (Japan 2011) Written and directed by Takashi Shimizu of JU-ON fame, TORMENTED (also known as RABBIT HORROR 3D) is a follow-up to his film THE SHOCK LABYRINTH (2009), but is not a true sequel.  The film tells the story of Kiriko (Hikari Mitsushima) whose younger brother has been mysteriously transported to another world by a giant bunny, and how she tries to save him.  I know it sounds weird, but I found it quite entertaining.  I also understand now how a giant stuffed rabbit can actually be scary.  To me it’s worth the viewing just for Christopher Doyle’s cinematography. TORMENTED is another film that did not make its debut in the US until 2012.

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NAMELESS GANGSTER (Korea 2012) This film stars the legendary (and one of my favorites) actor, Choi Min-sik, as a corrupt customs official who enters into the world of drug gangs almost by accident.  Written and directed by Yun Jong-bin, NAMELESS GANGSTER is an amazing gangster film that takes an unflinching look at corruption and nepotism in various levels of government and how they deal with the gangs that sell illegal drugs.  Choi is superb as a man who, regardless of the loyalty shown him, is only interested in personal gain and saving his own sorry ass.

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4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (USA 2011) I’ve included this movie because I saw its theatrical debut in 2012—which included a Q&A with famed cult film writer and director Abel Ferrara and star Shanyn Leigh.  4:44 follows artist couple Skye (Leigh) and Cisco (Willem Dafoe) during the last day of life on Earth.  It is a quiet yet powerful apocalyptic film that did, in fact, terrify me.  I really loved the subtly that Ferrara uses to tell this story and the fact that it elicited such an emotional response from me.

© Copyright 2013 by Colleen Wanglund

Dan Keohane’s Picks for THE BEST FILMS OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Best Of Lists, Daniel Keohane Reviews, James Bond, Superheroes with tags , , , , , , on January 9, 2013 by knifefighter

DAN KEOHANE’S TOP 10 FILMS OF 2012
By Dan Keohane

Ok, so, though you haven’t seen much of me in these webbie, wobbly… thingies we call Cinema Knife Fight, that doesn’t mean I haven’t seen my share of movies this year. In fact, I was pretty amazed how many 2012 releases I’d seen (still nowhere near enough, however).  There are a number of movies I did not, or have not yet been able to see (DJANGO UNCHAINED, CLOUD ATLAS, LIFE OF PI and HITCHCOCK to name only a few), but of the films I did manage to see, here are my FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012:

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1. THE AVENGERS—I was left a little wanting with CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER (2011) especially in its latter half, and IRON MAN 2 (2010) was a pretty weak sequel in my opinion, so I was worried about how THE AVENGERS would work out. Oh, Me of Little Faith. Joss Whedon hit this out of the park, as did every cast member. It says a lot when an entire cast’s performance makes Samuel L. Jackson’s seem almost boring. Great fun, especially for a lifetime comic fan like myself.

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2. LES MISERABLES—I know, this isn’t a genre film, but I had to include it. My wife cried pretty much all the way through this, and she’d seen the play 3 times before this. I didn’t cry, but was blown away by the vocals, the acting, the choreography—you name it. The movie was brilliant. It should tell you something that I had to pee for the last 45 minutes but didn’t get up until the credits rolled.

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3. FLIGHT—A sleeper that I don’t think many people saw, unfortunately. This intense, heroic and sad story of a pilot who saves a crashing airliner only to face his own demons (alcoholism and drug abuse) gives star Denzel Washington a chance to command the screen every moment he’s up there. Powerful movie.

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4. SKYFALL—In my opinion, this is the best James Bond movie ever. I hear that some people fell victim to raised expectations going in and I don’t want to give you the wrong idea. If you thought Roger Moore was the best James Bond, with all the gimmicks and jokes, you might not like this back-to-basics, serious spy flick. But I did—a lot. In my mind, Daniel Craig is the best Bond, hands down.

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5. THE HUNGER GAMES—An extremely good adaptation of the masterful YA novel, with a cast pulled right from the pages. The editing during battle scenes was choppy and scattered—but this was deliberate both to show the chaos and to keep the film from getting an R rating (thus excluding 90% of its audience). But that was the only negative aspect in my opinion. Besides, if I didn’t include it here, my daughter will never forgive me.

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6. THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY—This was exactly what I had hoped from Peter Jackson & Co., and more so. I actually left the theater wishing we’d seen the 3D version, which is unlike me, because it was so visually stunning. Very well cast, the film pays loving homage to the first third of the relatively short Hobbit novel, while adding enough extras (from other Tolkien sources) to keep you interested for 2.5+ hours. The Gollum vs. Bilbo scene itself is worth the price.

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7. LOOPER—A smart, fast-paced science fiction film which does not try to explain every little detail but appreciates the intelligence of 80% of its audience. This time travel story of a man from the future trying to keep his past self from killing him in the past is fast-paced and exciting and not as confusing as I make it sound—besides, this is only half the story.

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8. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN—I was not sure how this reboot / reimagining of the Spidey mythos would work (though I knew it needed something after 2007’s repetitious SPIDERMAN 3). I was pleasantly surprised. It was fun, funny, clever and exciting, as it should be.

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9. WRECK-IT RALPH—Came into this one with my 21-year old son not knowing much about it, but left warm and fuzzy having seen a clever, funny and sweet film which gives many nods to the video games that were around when I was 21.

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10. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD—This odd, almost experimental film is not for everyone. My wife Linda did not like it. I was spellbound from the beginning to the end. What exactly is going on it not always clear, except that these are some poor, poor people living off an unforgiving land which is about to get even more unforgiving. The relationship between the little girl and her semi-abusive, semi-loving father is equally warm and heart-wrenching.

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

THE LORAX (was sweet and clever and did my favorite Dr. Seuss book justice)

THE WOMAN IN BLACK (a great and spooky gothic horror, with minimal music blasts to scare you, just creepy settings and scary scenes)

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (very good finale to the series, but not my favorite of 2012, and not *quite* as good as the first two films).

Finally, even though they’re on TV and not the big screen, want to at least give a nod to THE WALKING DEAD and DOCTOR WHO as very enjoyable, unique and captivating viewing as always.

(If you noticed PROMETHEUS is missing from these lists, yes, I still have a couple of healing wounds, but I blame my own expectations for the film, not Mister Scott. He made the film he wanted to and it was vey good in its own right. )

There were many more that did not make the Top 10 but which were extremely good films in my option (CHRONICLE, THE GREY, MOONRISE KINGDOM, among others) and some not so good, but I’m out of room. I wish everyone a wonderful 2013 and hopefully we’ll see each other here more often in the months to come.

© Copyright 2013 by Daniel G. Keohane

Paul McMahon Lists THE BEST MOVIES HE SAW IN 2012

Posted in 2012, Best Of Lists, Paul McMahon Columns with tags , , , , on January 9, 2013 by knifefighter

BEST MOVIES I SAW IN 2012
By Paul McMahon

I spent this whole year lamenting that I didn’t have a lot of time to sit down and watch movies. Imagine my surprise when I tallied what I’d seen and discovered eighty films on the list. That’s almost two movies a week! With luck, I’ll have the same kind of “no time” next year.

I’m not going to list the films by order of greatness because that would be an exercise in futility. I only got to the theater twice this year, and those are probably the only movies I’ve seen that were actually released in 2012. Besides, most of those ‘least to greatest’ type lists I find overly fraught with nuance and personal taste (excepting the lists on this website, of course). Instead, I’ve decided to list the best movies I’ve seen in twelve different categories.

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Best Overall Movie:
THE AVENGERS (2012)

Best Horror Movie:
FROZEN (2010)

Best Horror/ Comedy:
TUCKER AND DALE VERSUS EVIL (2010)

Best Movie Seen In The Theater:
CABIN IN THE WOODS (2012)

Best Foreign Movie:
THE DRAGON TATTOO TRILOGY
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNET’S NEST (2009) was my favorite– I’ve always been a sucker for courtroom movies.

Best Movie Re-Assessment Of The Year:
THE RESURRECTED (1991)

Best New Christmas Movie Tradition:
RARE EXPORTS (2010)

Best Animated Film (Because I Have Kids And End Up Having To Watch A Lot Of Animated Movies):
THE ADVENTURES OF TINTIN (2011)

Best Former Oscar Contender I Finally Got Around To:
127 HOURS (2010)

Best Classic Movie I Finally Got Around To:
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123 (1974)

Best Movie People Raved About For So Long That I Finally Kowtowed And Watched Only To Wonder Why It Took Me So Long Because That Film Was Awesome, Baby!:
THE BOONDOCK SAINTS (1999)

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Best Movie I Didn’t Get To See And Tops My “MUST SEE” List for 2013:
ARGO (2012)

BEST BOOKS READ IN 2012

I ended up a little behind my intent to read a book a week this year, finishing at 46 out of 52. Of these, in no particular order, the best were:

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THE CARETAKER OF LORNE FIELD by David Zeltserman

A REQUIEM FOR DEAD FLIES by Peter N. Dudar

SNOW by Ronald Malfi

LULLABY by Chuck Palahniuk

and the story collection

SHINY THING by Patricia Russo

© Copyright 2013 by Paul McMahon

Nick Cato’s TOP 5 FILM EXPERIENCES OF 2012

Posted in 2012, 2013, Best Of Lists, Foreign Films, Grindhouse, Martial Arts, Nick Cato Reviews, Suburban Grindhouse Memories with tags , , , , on January 3, 2013 by knifefighter

Top 5 Film Experiences of 2012
By Nick Cato

I spend more time each year seeing retro-screenings of older films than new films, but this past year featured some solid, new grindhouse-quality releases. Here are my top 5 favorite film “experiences” of the year, featuring both new and old titles.

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5) 4:44 LAST DAY ON EARTH (2012): As a huge fan of Willem Dafoe, I’m always thrilled to see his latest project, especially when it’s an independent film. This downbeat apocalyptic drama by cult director Abel Ferrara features a different demise for mankind and has a tone all its own. I caught a Q&A session with Ferrara on opening night in Manhattan, which greatly enhanced the evening.

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4) VULGARIA (2012): This comedy from Hong Kong had the crowd floored on opening night of the annual Asian Film Festival in New York City this past July. The director stated AMC theaters had acquired the rights to distribute this in limited release across the USA, so hopefully that’ll be happening soon. It centers around a film producer who lectures his class on the crazy things he has done over the years to finance some films. It’s sheer hysteria from beginning to end, all the more amazing as the print I saw was subtitled. Don’t miss it.

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3) SWITCHBLADE SISTERS (1975): Jack Hill’s legendary, off-the-wall all-girl gang epic was featured in a rare 35mm screening at the Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn this past fall. Being able to see this on the big screen for the first time was a highlight of my filmgoing year (and life). If you’ve never seen it, you have yet to live.

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2) THE RAID: REDEMEPTION (2011): This action-packed Indonesian film had limited distribution in the USA in 2012, and even showed up at some major multiplexes around the country. A SWAT team raids an apartment complex a local drug gang has turned into their headquarters. The action and fight sequences are nearly non-stop, and a particularly brutal form of martial arts is used by the entire cast. A couple of knucklehead teenagers saw the subtitles and left during the first three minutes. They have no idea how GREAT a film they missed. The director even managed to sneak a couple of cool twists in-between the barrage of violence and suspense. Simply incredible.

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1) SALO: THE 120 DAYS OF SODOM (1975): Possibly the most controversial film of all time, Pier Paolo Pasolini’s dark epic came to NYC’s IFC Center in June, 2012 for a one-time showing and a sold out crowd. If you have seen it, but not on the big screen, words can’t describe how much more INSANE everything looks (and sounds), especially on this vintage 35mm print. While slow and repetitive at times, brutally mean spirited, and just downright depraved, Pasolini’s artistic look at a bunch of fascists who kidnap, torture and humiliate a bunch of teenagers into submission at an isolated Italian villa is as beautifully shot as it is painful to watch. SALO isn’t a pleasant or even enjoyable film to sit through, but it’s one any lover of obscure cinema should see at least once in their life…and if they can do it in a theater, all the better. Hearing a sold-out crowd giggle through one of the more disgusting sequences made it a bit easier to go down. Love it or hate it, SALO is a film that once seen can never be forgotten. (Editor’s Warning: SALO is not for the squeamish)

© Copyright 2013 by Nick Cato