Movie Reviews

Movie Review: The Great Yokai War

Jeff VanderMeer • May 14th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

We rented this movie through cable on-demand because we wanted something fun on in the background while we signed and personalized copies of our Steampunk anthology. However, the first few scenes were too arresting, so we turned it off and went back to it when we had time to actually watch the film with our full attention. We’re glad we did. The Great Yokai War tells the fascinating story of an evil sorcerer (?) who is fashioning a kind of world-conquering machine that feeds off of the essence of various traditional Japanese spirits and mythological creatures. A boy finds himself in the unlikely role of hero in trying to help stop this wholesale torture/slaughter, and in the process tries to save the world.

Many of the special effects involving blue screens have a cheesy feel to them, but the director’s choice to put most of the monsters and spirits in actual physical costumes helps ground the movie in some imaginative, grotesque, and beautiful images. Yes, the plot is a little bit wonky, but when you see all of the weird spirit-things marching on Tokyo…it’s kinda breath-taking.

Movie Review: The Nines

Jeff VanderMeer • March 30th, 2008 • Movie Reviews, Uncategorized

The Nines is the kind of movie where to review it and include too much summary…is to destroy it. This isn’t because it’s an O’Henry story, but more because of the building emotional content of the film. It’s structured in three parts with the same actors in different roles. The first part shows a drug-rehab actor under house arrest. The second shows a TV writer trying to get his vision made into a series. The third shows some version of that TV series, with a family hiking in the mountains.

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Movie Review: Southland Tales

Jeff VanderMeer • March 28th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

Southland Tales is a ambitious, admirable, sprawling mess of a movie. Caught between satire and reality, reality and science fiction, it never quite works, except for some individual scenes. It’s set in an alternate yet familiar California in which Homeland Security is more invasive and we’re at war in Syria after a nuclear attack in Texas. The Rock plays a movie star who might’ve been sent through a rift in another dimension, only to come back a changed man. Marxist rebels inhabit Venice Beach. A strange Dr. Strangelove-like Nobel-prize-winning scientist/baron has created a new source of renewable energy. And so it goes…

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Movie Review: The Band’s Visit

Jeff VanderMeer • March 26th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

The Band’s Visit finally made it to Tallahassee theaters this past week. I went in expecting an amusing movie of culture clash and came out realizing I’d seen a deeply profound film that was equal parts comedy and tragedy. The qualities of silence and stillness are used to great effect, especially in the recurring shot of the Egyptian band, lost, standing by the side of the road. In the opening sequences, there’s an understated humor to this shot. In the ending scenes, it’s a source of great sadness.

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The Last Mimzy

Jeff VanderMeer • March 18th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

The central idea in The Last Mimzy–of the future calling upon the past to save it–is one of great potency and emotion. That this takes the form of dozens (hundreds?) of rabbit dolls sent back through time is potentially sentimental, but also deeply strange, in a good way.

For the first half of The Last Mimzy, which focuses on two children discovering a rabbit doll and accompanying marvels, has a kind of innocence and simplicity that is deeply appealing. The way that this future technology makes them see the world is deftly conveyed.

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Gone Baby Gone

Jeff VanderMeer • February 17th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

Ann and I saw this film directed by Ben Affleck earlier this week; it’s just been released on DVD. Gone Baby Gone, which has gotten a lot of praise, concerns the disappearance of a child and the complications that result. The first half of the film, with its rising tension and rising stakes, is not only riveting but beautiful to look at: great cinematography, often of the worst parts of Boston. However, the event on which the movie hinges–an exchange gone wrong, with a doll floating in a lake (an image that returns several times)–begins a downward slide for Gone Baby Gone. Into plot holes and unbelievability. Without giving away too much, we never bought why the thug named Cheese would be part of the exchange. We didn’t really buy into the reasons why another character enters a bar dressed in a disguise to fake a robbery. We knew immediately when the police captain appears, played by A Certain Famous Actor, that this wasn’t just a cameo. And we honestly just didn’t care in the end. The book the movie is based on was written by a well-known crime author, Lehane, and we had similar problems with the last movie we saw based on a book by him (Mystic River). Good set-up, only decent ending. I’m beginning to think it’s something about the author and not the filmmakers.

There Will Be Blood: Super Tuesday

Jeff VanderMeer • February 5th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

Well, okay, this is a movie review, not a political post about the primaries, but…they are somewhat related. There Will Be Blood is definitely a political movie. It’s capitalist/entrepreneur versus fundamentalist priest in There Will Be Blood, even as the irony is, of course, that the unrelenting selfish evangelical element in both has resulted in the situation we currently have in this country: a culture of superficial greed and selfishness, without empathy for people different from us or respect for the world we live in.

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Beneath the Planet of the Apes

Jeff VanderMeer • January 30th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

I first saw what I thought was Planet of the Apes in 1974 in Singapore–a French dub with some kind of Asian subtitles. It was the strangest experience of my life. And now having seen Planet of the Apes and Beneath the Planet of the Apes, I now realize what I saw must have been the third or fourth installment…because I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen these first two before. The first Planet was pretty interesting fare–cheesy in places, but with some nice cinematography and twists to the plot.

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Pred Research Detritus: Alien Vs, um, Hunter

Jeff VanderMeer • January 18th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

The trailer above cannot really convey the abomination that is the Alien/Predator rip-off Alien versus…ready for it…Alien vs Hunter. Yes, that’s right: Alien VERSUS Hunter. Starring an aging William Katt, former teen heart-throb. If starring it be, me hearties.

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Gingerdead Man

Ann VanderMeer • January 6th, 2008 • Movie Reviews

On the other hand, this movie with Gary Busey doesn’t look so good……