Mobility is a challenge even in the day and age of recording music, spending time on a smartphone or reading the daily news on a laptop. Which is why I wanted to see a movie about the opposite of sitting still. 3100: RUN AND BECOME is a bit of breath of fresh air in the world of documentary filmmaking, even if it doesn’t instill a sense of awe that it aspires to. The film follows an unassuming Finnish paperboy, Ashprihanal Aalto in his determined attempt to complete the Self-Transcendence 3100 Miler, the world’s longest race, where he must run at least 60 miles per day for 52 days around a ½ mile sidewalk loop in New York City.
When sitting down to write a review, the last thing you want to implement is a cliche. However, once in awhile it is so apt that no better words or turns of phrase could be used. I’m of course referring to “style over substance,” in the case of MANDY which is the latest film from director Panos Cosmatos. Every so often, a viewer can settle in and accept the fact that a movie can simply be an experience of mood rather than a wholly original story. This would be the case for this particular film, in which I warmed up to its first hour only to find myself a bit distanced by the second, due to its familiarity of revenge movie tropes and gory screams of confrontation.
Sometimes movies take horror premises and than put more horror premises inside of them, like one of those Japanese Pizza Hut pizzas that has hot dogs inside the crust. In The Russian Bride, Nina (Oksana Orlan) plays a Russian woman in a desperate situation who is forced to become a mail-order bride for rich man Karl Frederick (Corbin Bensen). He seems kind enough but anyone who pays attention to the news knows there's no such thing as a kind rich man, all rich people are craven sadists looking to strip-mine the working class for parts. Her arrival in America (which looks suspiciously like the Eastern Europe she just left) gets more ominous with the appearance of a tongueless hunchback groundskeeper, a forbidden wing of the mansion, undiscussed children's rooms, stories of Karl's dark past and a ghost that may or may not be his former wife that won't leave Nina's daughter Dasha (Kristina Pimenova) alone.
Natalia (Sofia Del Tuffo) is a convent novice, fleeing some dark thing in her past. She has dark visions and sees auras circling the people around her. She has an unclear relationship with a young man there, an unresolved issue with her family, a tortured relationship with her sister. Some of these things will be answered by the end of Luciferina, a new possession horror film from Argentina, but very little will get more clear.
What a year for The Music Box Theatre with the Cinepocalypse film festival. Though I wasn't able to attend every screening, there were a couple of films I was able to view that truly were special. That's not to say everything was a home run. Despite having seen THE RANGER, I have very little to say about it aside from "yep, that was a slasher movie." Of course, there's nothing wrong with that. A genre film festival is supposed to present a little bit of everything, including something truly divisive and bizarre like the latest PUPPET MASTER film. Luckily, my cohort Patrick Ripoll and I were able to see a lot of interesting titles this year that were memorable and special. I know Patrick couldn't say enough good things about the latest from Joel Potrykus with RELAXER, and I found EMPATHY INC., to be right up my alley as well. The rep screenings were also marvelous with Lana Wachowski making an appearance for her debut noir thriller BOUND as well as the movie where Denis Leary got to play a gang leader, JUDGMENT NIGHT.
There are true stories out there that catch you completely off guard. We talk about suspension of disbelief when it comes to fiction, but truly, it can be applied to real life as well. Lots of “too weird to be true” tales are being turned into podcasts or a miniseries that’s streaming near you. So as we become more and more inundated with mysteries, both solved and unsolved, it’s becoming difficult to sift through or view each experience without trepidation. Meaning that one can easily become burnt out on this style of storytelling just like any other genre.I was starting to feel that way a little bit upon viewing a recent Netflix documentary that also felt a little one-sided. Upon receiving an invitation to view THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS, there was skepticism. After all, what story could be embedded after all three men bond together after years apart?
The world of heavy metal and horror movies have gone hand in hand ever since Ozzy Osbourne walked out of Mario Bava's Black Sabbath knowing the new name of his band. The imagery of demons, torture, curses and murder is an easy sell to unhappy adolescents the world over. Whether depicted on album covers or movie posters, a desiccated sneering corpse is just fucking cool and deserves to be hung on closet doors with reverence. But, with few exceptions, it seems the world of heavy metal's sole connection to cinema has been horror. Movies like Deathgasm may capture the epic and badass feelings we have when we listen to heavy metal, but the truth under those feelings is the truth at the core of every sub-culture: a group of dorks who have found something that makes them happy.
It's a year of unspeakable systemic cruelty at large with no psychic relief from the unspeakable systemic apathy at the cinema. We sat through Insidious 4, Liam Neeson Punches 7, Maze Runner 3, Cloverfield 3, Fifty Shades 3, Tomb Raider 3, The Strangers 2, Pacific Rim 2, Gnomes 2, Super Troopers 2, Star Wars 11, Ocean's 4, Jurassic Park 5, Purge 4, Sicario 2, and four more blows to our morale from the infinitely wearying Superhero Movie Dispenser. They even made God's Not Dead 3. Even motherfucking Evangelicals can't catch a break at the theater in 2018. We go to film festivals like Cinepocalypse seeking alternatives, praying low budgets equal bigger risks and, potentially, maybe, even an original idea now and then. The films we see are fun but generic as a rule. Another found footage spook-em-up, another post-apocalyptic shoot-em-up, another haunted house boo-em-up and, Jesus Christ, is that Puppet Master 12? From this darkness, a brilliant hot pink light emerges: The Secret Poppo.
That old expression, “try walking in my shoes,” takes on a literal form in the film EMPATHY, INC. We all wonder about why we are the way we are, and what it would be like to be someone else, even just for a day. No, this remarkable sci-fi tale isn’t your typical body switching story, it is far more complex and anxiety-inducing. Suffice to say, it’s quite possible that Roger Ebert would have enjoyed this particular film since it takes the idea of “empathy” and manifests it into something sinister. What if Ebert’s idea of an empathy machine wasn’t a metaphor for cinema, but an actual machine that could allow you some time to experience the lives of others?
A mother who cannot get pregnant makes a pact with the devil to have children, but at a terrible price. Her choice has deadly ramifications that echo through multiple generations. Satan's Slaves, the new film from Joko Anwar, who is certainly one of Indonesia's only working horror filmmakers, also echoes through generations. It's a loose remake of 1982 Indonesian black magic film Satan's Slave. which itself is often described as "the Indonesian Phantasm", though the connection there is even looser. But ultimately, most of Satan's Slaves can be tied back to the work of a single filmmaker: James Wan.