Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mother of Tears and The Burning

Mother of Tears is the third film in the Maestro's lauded Three Mothers trilogy begun in 1977 with Suspiria and continued in 1980's Inferno. I've been looking forward to this film very eagerly for the past few years, especially after Dario Argento directed those two Masters of Horror episodes ("Jenifer" and "Pelts.") I was hoping with how great "Pelts" was that he'd found the key to his creative freedom after being chained down for so long with Italian television. Maybe THIS will be the key he needs and his next film, Giallo, will be utterly fantastic (though not written by him...again.)
Mother of Tears reunites Argento with his daughter, Asia, and her mother, Daria Nicolodi with a script written by Argento with Jace Anderson & Adam Gierasch (along with Walter Fasano and Simona Simonetti, according to the IMDb as they go uncredited in the film.)
I wonder how much different, and better, the film would have been if Dario and Nicolodi had written it, like they did Suspiria, instead of the American team of Anderson and Gierasch. The film was good for the first hour or so and it felt like the Maestro got his groove back. The hour and change mark passed on the read-out and I was thinking that it's building up to what was going to be one mother of a blow-out between Mater Lachrymarum and Asia's Sarah Mandy.
Boy, was I let down.
I wasn't expecting Suspiria or Inferno, okay? Dario's in a different place now than he was when he made the first two flicks in his career defining trilogy (of his most recent flicks, The Stendhal Syndrome is probably my favourite even though it's intensely disturbing on a father-daughter level...if you rent or buy it, make sure to get the Blue Underground release.) After all the hype of this being his most visually disturbing work yet, I was expecting to have my mind utterly blown. It was decidedly un-blown. In fact, my mind is rather more like "Really? That's it? Really?!"
There may be two reasons for this:
one) Fangoria, in their desire to be the kick ass magazine they really are, gave away simply too much information in the articles and the photos. I've stopped reading the articles for movies I want to see, and for remakes of movies I want to see, because I'm afraid they'll kill the whole thing for me.
two) Jace Anderson and Adam Gierasch. I didn't like Toolbox Murders and had a bad feeling about their involvement with the last film of the trilogy, but Dario kept talking them up and so I thought, "I don't want to be unfair so I'll wait and see." Well, I waited, and I've seen, and I'm wholly unimpressed. That doesn't mean that the Maestro is blameless, but his scripts are usually a little stilted when translated into English anyway...but not like this.
Okay, now that I've got that out of the way, let's talk about the good stuff:
The direction: It felt like an old school Argento film, but with a couple of decades of learning behind it. The way it should be, in my humble opinion.
The acting: The movie rests on the shoulders of Dario's daughter, Asia. Unfortunately, the script has a weak third act compounded by a defenseless heroine. It was frustrating, actually. There could have been an amazing character arc if they'd just had that final showdown of Sarah Mandy facing off against Mater Lachrymarum...but there I go about the writing again. That has nothing to do with her performance, Asia simply performed what was on the page and did a good job.

The effects: There was very little use of CGI, which is wonderful, and the practical effects were very strong. The set pieces were very Argento in their strangely beautiful brutality.
The score: Other than some misplaced music cues, the score by long time Argento collaborator and Goblin member Claudio Simonetti was just on this side of too much and, thus, perfect. I thought I heard a little bit of Suspiria in the soundtrack at one point, but I'm not sure.
The cinematography: The colour scheme isn't as strong as in Suspiria and Inferno, but the look and style is close enough to its predecessors that it fits right in. The colours were rich and the blacks were deep. The lighting was nice, especially in Lachrymarum's house and its catacombs.
Overall: A disappointing ending bruises the rest of the film. Now that I've seen it, I'd like to watch it again in a few months or whatever, perhaps alongside the rest of the trilogy. Maybe I'll have a better appreciation for it at that point. I wouldn't recommend it if you haven't seen the other two film or as an introduction to Argento...either Argento...
The Burning is a Friday the 13th ripoff from 1981 written and produced by Bob and Harvey Weinstein and starring a bunch of Holly Hunter in a blink-n-miss her role as the camper named Sophia as well as Fisher Stevens and Jason Alexander as a couple of misfit campers.
The movie is crap, but not the worst F13 ripoff I've ever seen, with some surprisingly good cinematography and great effects courtesy Tom Savini. Let's be honest, his work is the real star of this movie about a camp caretaker named Cropsy who was left horribly scarred after being caught in a fire that was the result of a prank gone wrong. After five years of being in hospital, Cropsy finally leaves and starts painting the town, and the forest, red.
As far as I can tell, the best reason for this movie to be around is for filmmakers who are about to be screwed royally by the Weinsteins to say, "What the hell are you talking about, man? I've seen The Burning. Leave my flick alone." I think that if Romero and Craven had seen this flick before signing up with them, Diary of the Dead would have had a better theatrical release and Cursed would have been left alone to be bad or good on its own feet, not on the feet of two brothers who live their filmmaking dreams vicariously through whoever they can mow down. The earliest title I can remember hearing about them screwing around with was an article in a 1992 issue of Fangoria about Richard Stanley's beleaguered Dust Devil.
Overall: Eh. If you love Savini's effects work, this is worth a look. If you really like slasher flicks, this is worth a look. If you're looking for a really good flick, this isn't worth a look.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rent: the final stage performance in theatres September 24, 25, 27, and 28.

Waaaay back in '94 or '95, my mom watched a clip on a talk show of this group of kids sing about measuring your life in love and absolutely HAD to have the soundtrack to this crazy new Broadway musical called Rent. Until the movie, neither of us had seen a full on production of the musical. I don't know what my mom thought, but I liked the movie. It seemed a bit too...well, Chris Columbus-ish (he directed the adaptation) and watered down a bit (it went from what could have been rated R to PG-13), but I still liked it. It made me a fan of Tracie Thoms and Rosario Dawson and it was great to see most of the original cast reprising their roles.
I had the privledge of previewing the special presentation of the final performance of Rent tonight. It was wonderful! I highly recommend seeing it if you have any interest in seeing Rent at all!! Usually, videotaped versions of stage shows lose all the magic in the translation from a three dimensional experience to a static two, but they managed to keep the energy of the videography up. There were a few times where I wished they'd chosen a different angle or a wide shot, but on the whole, the editing was good and the cinematography was remarkably good considering the difficulties inherent in shooting something lit for the stage.
Now that I've seen the stage version thanks to Sony Pictures and The Hot Ticket, a few things make more sense than they did in the movie. I chalk that up to Chris Columbus and the difficulties of adapting any script between mediums.
With the exception of Tracie Thoms taking on her movie role of Joanne for the Broadway stage, all of the faces are new and the voices are strangely familiar. Many of the actors sound just like members of the original Broadway cast (pronunciation and timing) and one even looks like her predecessor. That was a little strange, I have to admit.
Anyway, I highly recommend it and I hope Sony puts it out on DVD.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Burn After Reading, Son of Rambow, Redbelt, Igor

Burn After Reading is the newest Coen brothers flick and stars Francis McDormand, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Richard Jenkins, John Malkovich, and Tilda Swinton in a funny, but convoluted story involving espionage, exercise, and, as the tagline suggests, that "intelligence is relative." To say too much more than that would be spoiling a good flick.
Of course it's convoluted. If you've seen more of the Coen brothers' work than No Country for Old Men, you'd know that convoluted is pretty much par for the course. And, it's no Raising Arizona or The Big Lebowski, but it's funny in that wonderfully quirky Coen way.
The performances were top notch, the score was perfect, it was well-edited. I loved it!
Son of Rambow was the newest flick from Hammer and Tongs, otherwise known as Garth Jennings (writer-director) and Nick Goldsmith (producer), the men behind The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie (which I LOVED almost as much as I love the books.) The film stars Bill Milner as Will Proudfoot, a secretively imaginative young boy brought up in 1980s Britain in the arms of the Brethren, a religious sect not unlike the Amish where music, television, movies, and being friends with Outsiders (folks like you and I) are strictly verboten. When the school bully, Lee Carter (Will Poulter), manipulates the naive Will into helping him make a movie for a competition, and he accidentally sees a pirated copy of First Blood, the smaller boy's mind is completely blown open. Things fall apart, as things do, and the friendship between the boys is tested as they struggle to finish the film.
Based on facets of Jennings' own childhood (the DVD includes one of his short films from back in the day as well as the winner of a website contest), the film was wonderfully funny, imaginative, and heart-wrenchingly beautiful. Everything about it was fantastic!
I highly, highly recommend this flick.
Redbelt is a David Mamet film set near the world of competitive mixed martial arts. It stars Chiwetel Ejiofor (one of the best actors working today) as Mike Terry, a warrior who is against prize-bout competition struggling to maintain his principles and values in the face of a string of betrayals that eventually force him into a position he's not sure he can escape from regardless of his mantra that "there's always an escape."
This being a David Mamet film (something I don't have that much experience with), it's very talky and a little heavy-handed in areas. It was choppy and, strangely enough, poorly written. It feels very choppy, especially toward the end, as though we're missing some scenes that would explain a few things.
The movie is carried on the strong shoulders of Chiwetel Ejiofor. As always, he's wonderful in this film. The supporting actors are important, and are good (even Tim Allen), but don't have as much to work with as Ejiofor.
I got it just to watch Chiwetel Ejiofor and I would recommend it based on that. It's NOT a martial arts film. It's a drama. The promotional material is misleading.
Igor (yes, I do keep calling it "eye-gore" when it's pronounced "eee-gore" is an animated flick starring John Cusack's voice as an inventive Igor in a country that doesn't let Igors (you know, the hunchbacked, ever-suffering lab assistant...) do anything except assist the evil scientists. When his master, voiced by John Cleese, is killed in an accident, our Igor gets the opportunity to prove himself in the annual Evil Science Fair, held by the king of the country of Malaria in order to ransom the world for money.
Igor decides that he's going to create life from spare parts, a giant evil monster, who turns out to be female, to terrify all and win the Fair and the adoration of all of Malaria. When the evil Dr. Schadenfreude (EDDIE IZZARD!) finds out about his invention, he plots with his girlfriend, Jaclyn (Jennifer Coolidge), to steal it.
It was cute and strange and while it's obviously influenced by Tim Burton (the king just about rips off the look of the Mayor of Halloweentown), it doesn't come close to his stop motion stuff. And the Annie stuff? It really should have made me laugh...but it didn't. In fact, I giggled only a few times and it was because of Eddie Izzard and Jennifer Coolidge who are easily the best voices in the flick, though John Cusack sounded like he was having fun. Otherwise, it was surprisingly unfunny. Young Frankenstein reference? Really? That's disappointing...
The animation was nice. Nothing like Pixar or even Dreamworks, but it was well done and the design of the characters was cool.
Kids will like it. It'll be a little too heavy-handed for older kids and adults. I'd recommend watching Young Frankenstein again.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

My ShockerFest laurels!

I received my ShockerFest laurels a few minutes ago along with the news that my lead actress, Kristin Mellian (I'm working on the IMDb credit for Without/Within), has been nominated for Best Actress! Go Kristin!!

ShockerFest laurels

Sunday, September 7, 2008

My brother's store now has a website!

The website isn't fully stocked yet, it's a lot of work for him to get all of his stock online, but here it is and it looks great!
The brick and mortar store, Drum or Dance, is here in Sarasota, Florida, in the plaza formerly known as DeSears down by the Phillippi Creek Mansion. It's located inside Headzup where he's got tonnes more instuments from around the world, belly dance clothing, and poi gear. He'll eventually get it all up on the site, but you know...takes time.
So go check it out! You can also buy the World Collision CD there!

Thursday, September 4, 2008


I received word today, as I was out running errands, that my short film, Without/Within was accepted to the ShockerFest International Film Festival in Riverbank, California!
They said that the schedule isn't finished, but that my film will definitely be shown!!
Is it unprofessional to squee? Because, if it is, I've been unprofessional since I first got the voicemail!! OMIGOD!!!!
The festival runs October 3-5 and I will be rearranging my vacation time to accomodate the festival.
*giggles at "rearranging my vacation time to accomodate the festival"*

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

I'm Not There, Brutal Massacre: A Comedy

I'm Not There was written and directed by Todd Haynes and stars six different actors all playing one character, the various persona of Bob Dylan. I'm NOT a Bob Dylan fan. His lyrics are great, but his voice...oh dear God, his voice... Suffice it to say that he's not my bag. I watched this in order to see how Todd Haynes was able to make a movie with six different actors playing the same role. Some (Christian Bale, Marcus Carl Franklin) were better than others (Heath Ledger, Richard Gere, Ben Whishaw), but one was better than all of them. That one was Cate Blanchett. She was amazing.
As for how well the story worked, I honestly couldn't tell you. The individual pieces were great, but if you tried to add them into one coherent movie, it doesn't make a whole heck of a lot of sense if you know nothing about the subject. And I don't. It kept me interested, though...that has to say something.
Overall: I can't recommend or not recommend it. It wouldn't be fair. If you like Dylan, see it. If you don't, it's up to you. However, if you miss out on it, you'll be missing one of Cate Blanchett's best performances and the performance of Marcus Carl Franklin and that is certainly something to consider.
Brutal Massacre: A Comedy was written and directed by Stevan Mena and stars David Naughton was nearly washed-up horror auteur Harry Penderecki hoping to make a huge come back with his newest masterpiece Brutal Massacre. The film is a mockumentary, a form so popular these days, and follows Penderecki and his crew (Brian O'Halloran, Ellen Sandweiss, Ken Foree, and Gerry Bednob with special appearances by Betsy Baker, Mick Garris, Tony Timpone, and Gunnar Hansen) as they try to make their film over a disasterous two month shoot.
While it was a bit slow, I enjoyed nearly every minute of it as both a fan and a writer of horror. Stevan Mena manages to poke good natured fun at everyone in and every convention of an indie horror film and its creators, including himself.
It's ALWAYS wonderful to see Ken Foree in anything. I'll be honest, I rented it mainly for him. I'm glad I did because it was fun and funny and the rest of the cast was great as well!
While they kind of forgot a few of the key things about how a documentary film crew films (what the crew would be able to cover, how much they'd actually get on tape, that sort of thing), it was pretty well put together. As far as horror mockumentaries go, Behind the Mask and Diary of the Dead were better. (Waiting for Guffman and Best in Show, both by Christopher Guest, are the best in the genre.) Some of Brutal Massacre needed trimmed a little more, but overall it was a good flick. I recommend it.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Go listen to!

My brother is being interviewed on their internet radio show! It's wicked! I thought it was going to be recorded so I didn't post about it.

edited again to add: The show's up! Download it at:

edited to add: Okay, it WILL be archived and I'll update this post when it is.

My brother, Shawn Bowen, has a new project on his ever-expanding docket, called World Collision. You can go to his MySpace to listen to it. It's instrumental world music fusion meditational music. His CD can be purchased on The song "Without/Within" was titled for and used extensively in my short film. :D