In 1981, Evil Dead placed on the map the aspiring filmmaker Sam Raim. The inventive film mixing scares and gore (blood and filths) with a ragtime good humor, headed by prominent chin of Bruce Campbell, the protagonist.
Three decades later, the genre of movie-of-cabin that Evil Dead helped define reached the point of exhaustion. Simplistic terror “five victims awaiting their fate” underwent changes, twists and attempted reinvention, culminating in exaggerated – and that somehow represent this theme decontrol – The Cabin in the Woods.
It’s only fair, then, that Raimi himself, now a superstar direction, return to the abandoned cabin in the woods to take control of this subgenre of fear again.
However, Raimi, wisely, the film delivers a rookie, emulating his own past. Fede Alvarez, the Uruguayan who made a short film Panic Attack! in 2009, directed and co-wrote Evil Dead (2013). The story follows five friends (Jane Levy, Lou Taylor Pucci, Shiloh Fernandez, Jessica Lucas and Elizabeth Blackmore) staying in an isolated cabin in the woods for detoxification treatment of younger patients (whose symptoms possession mingle with the reflections abstinence). As in the original, but there discover the “Book of the Dead”, which releases a demonic spirit that possesses one by one, the unwary.
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The second film in Marvel’s Phase Two of releasing, is the follow to up 2011′s rousing and unexpectedly humorous, Thor. This new film keeps the humor intact but there’s something light and insubstantial about this movie. It almost floats away as you watch it, and it dissipates from memory just as quickly.
This time out Thor must engage in battle with an ancient enemy older than Earth, who is intent on enslaving all in the nine realms of the universe. While the first movie took place largely in a dusty remote town in New Mexico, the majority of this sequel is set in the mythical city of Asgard. This would seem to be the ideal opportunity for creative enhancement but for all it’s proclamations and noisy battle sequences there is little creativity onscreen. Chris Hemsworth is once again ideally cast as the mythical god of Thunder and Natalie Portman slums through her role with an almost bashful annoyance.
Jane Foster (Portman) is transported from present day London, where she still pines for Thor, to Asgard, putting her life in jeopardy and giving the movie a reason to exists. There is a lot of nonsense involving the aligning of planets and ports that link worlds. Jane’s very presence in Asgard threatens the existence of all Asgardians, due to an infection she carries, caused by the cursed Aether. Got all that?
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It’s Free Tilly argues the riveting documentary Blackfish, which chronicles the 40 year captivity of a Killer Whale named Tilikum. This specific mammal has been responsible for at least three deaths in the last twenty years. A host of Ex-Sea-World trainers and OSHA expert witnesses recount horrifying and often touching stories about captivity conditions and a lack of safety measures for trainers in the pools with these 5,000 lb. fish.
Centering on the brutal attack and mutilation of trainer Dawn Brancheau during a training session gone afoul with Tilikum, this doc points a charged finger at the moral principles and practices employed by Sea-World. By exploring the history and hardship endured by this mammal, it becomes clear that Tilly has suffered severe psychosis and is not fit to be used in public showings any longer. However as of present he can still be seen in daily shows at the Sea-World park in Florida.
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Side Effects is a movie that blindsided me. From its subdued opening to the far-reaching and nearly over-the-top conclusion, this is a film that never steps wrong, not for a scene or line of dialogue. Perfectly capturing the tone that has eluded the likes of Brian Depalma, and even lesser filmmakers for the last 40 years. Steven Soderbergh has quietly delivered one of the year’s best films, and if this is his last feature (as widely reported), it’s a graceful bow-out. Two years ago Contagion appeared on my Top 10 Best of the year list, I have a strong suspicion that Side Effects may top-line that list this year. Featuring a star-studded cast doing career best work, Soderbergh has concocted a twisted crime-thriller that delivers one of the years best head-trips.
Emily (Rooney Mara) is severely depressed due to a loss of lifestyle that has sent her into the dark recess of her mind. Things should be brightening up, her husband Martin (Channing Tatum) has recently returned home from a four-year prison sentence and the couple appear to be headed back to financial and marital bliss. Yet, Emily attempts suicide by running her car into a concrete wall. She survives the ordeal and is ordered to undergo psychiatric care under the watchful eye of Dr. Jonathan Banks (Jude Law). Sensing that Emily needs different medication her prescribes a new anti-depressant hitting the market.
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Room 237 is an exhaustive glimpse into multiple theories examining the text and subversive sub-text of Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation of the Stephen King novel, The Shinning. Running nearly as long as the subject matter, this nearly 2 hour documentary is an undeniably appealing conversation starter for any cinema-head. Using a savvy mix of footage from not only the source film but all of Kubrick’s film works, Room 237 blends VFX shots to manipulate the audience and create an experience similar to viewing a Kubrick movie for the first time, captivating and confounding in equal measures.
The documentary is broken into nine points, by six different interviewees each waxing philosophical on the true meaning of nearly every aspect of Kubrick’s 1980 film. Depending on your own affiliation with the notorious filmmaker or the (in my opinion) disappointing horror flick, this thorough examination is either going to inspire the viewer to re-visit the original film or shake their heads in befuddlement, as when one theorist argues that the film is to be played backwards and forwards simultaneously. That among a few others are some of the more outlandish theories floating around this slick documentary that plays like a well-produced bit of fan fiction filmmaking.
My favorite segment is the discussion that The Shinning is just a thinly veiled metaphor for the faking of the Apollo 11 moon landing. It has long been rumored that Stanley Kubrick replicated the moon landing telecast from a soundstage. Vehemently denied by all involved, one conspiracy theorist provides a compelling argument that the film is littered with hints that Kubrick was attempting to come clean about the whole messy affair but knew the danger of exposing such a secret.
Room 237 won’t hold much interest to those who haven’t seen the subject film, and for those (like myself) on the fence about it, this documentary at least sheds light on possible layers that hide in the dense and nearly un-penetrable movie. Was it Kubrick’s intention to make a statement about genocide? or perhaps NASA? or even Nazi German in 1942? Or is The Shinning just a really dull horror flick? It’s your call, but Room 237 wants you to think about it, exhaustively.
Director: Rodney Ascher
Stars: Bill Blakemore, Geoffrey Cocks, Juli Kearns