9/9/12 Kill List (2011)
You can blame the lump in your throat all throughout Ben Wheatley’s Kill List on the ominous DVD menu and its cult symbol; there’s a dread that slowly rises to a crescendo. My soul has been squashed and then diced up into a million pieces. Kudos to the sound design for crafting such a truly unsettling atmosphere in, to avoid any spoilage, a very different third act. I need to see this again, I’m just not sure I’ll be ready.
Now Playing disagreed with my fondness for Tom Jones’ title theme, but we’re rock-solid on every other criticism of Connery’s fourth entry. It amazes me that Thunderball’s budget was so astronomical because the production value is in a perpetual state of flux. As is the audio dubbing. And green screens. Every set piece goes out of its way to be underwater or surrounded by water or at the very least about water and it’s all basically terrible. John Barry is once again fantastic and an underwater twist on the cavalry charge is nice, but it’s too little too late. To make it extra awkward, one of Bond’s early lady pursuits is a tad ‘rapey’ by today’s standards. Surprisingly, Thunderball’s sexual politics are generously muddled and it’s nice that Luciana Paluzzi calls out Bond’s magical penis powers, even if it’s too little too late. And yes, that’s the only unintentional double entendre you’ll find here.
9/11/12 Next (2007)
Um, I guess Nic Cage’s hair has gotten… pretty interesting as of late?
You Only Live Twice (1967)
In much the same way Thunderball is an overvalued Bond entry, Lewis Gilbert’s foray into Ian Fleming is overlooked; I’m including me here. Though I recalled this as the seminal appearance of Donald Pleasance’s Ernst Stavro Blofeld, my selective memory repressed how much fun You Only Live Twice has. Gilbert is more than a competent storyteller, and sequences are shot with skill and an eye for the visually seasoned: a bird’s eye rooftop fight sequence and the silhouetted reveal of a samurai army (yes) instantly spring to mind. Twenty minutes are wholly unnecessary, especially given their Asia-fication of Sean Connery for… some reason, and its Cold War plot is merely an updated take on From Russia With Love, pitting American and Soviet space programs against one another. Still, even if it’s not particularly exciting, Roald Dahl’s script only tells us as much as we care to hear. And seriously, does John Barry never bring it with the scores? A fun helicopter battle now seems hokey in its dated effects but Barry’s use of the classic Bond theme is a cocky affirmation of what we already know: Bond’s going to escape somehow, so let’s cut the illusions and just enjoy ourselves, shall we?
9/12/12 The Innkeepers (2011)
Excuse the generalization, but it seems easier to talk about the what than the how in a film — doubly so with horror. ‘Oh and then that one part where that thing comes out of nowhere? What was up with that?’ Ti West’s The Innkeepers is all about the how, and that’s a very striking effect to leave on an audience, because he doesn’t show anything that’s truly terrifying. Most of the time, West doesn’t show much of anything. Instead, Wunderkind West — who writes, directs, and edits — exploits our trepidations to the nth degree, particularly with a bravura sequence in the Yankee Pedlar Inn’s creepy basement. Of course. Though its lack of substantive scares occasionally bogs down the momentum, The Innkeepers rises above bone-dry material, namely in Sara Paxton and Pat Healy’s amateur spirit hunters. But forget catching any satisfying shots of ghost reveals, because West deals in a taut, minimalist visual language. By the time this 100 minute slow-burn had ended, my stomach physically hurt. I was worried I’d caught some bug. Nah. Clenching.
9/14/12 Clue (1985)
Guess who’s coming to dinner? A bloody board game! Bear in mind Clue was an idea hatched over 25 years ago, long before the days of Battleship or Adam Sandler-helmed Candyland one-offs. Jonathan Lynn’s punny mystery-comedy has plenty of wit and self-awareness to distinguish itself from a bargain bin entry, but a handful of fun performances from the likes of Martin Mull, Madeline Kahn, and Spinal Tap’s Michael McKean elevate what could have so easily been a phoned-in paycheck for talented character actors. Not to mention Tim Curry’s Wadsworth makes a perfect guide in this 90 minute exercise in excess. As a bonus, Clue even manages to divorce itself from its game board origins by shirking concrete resolutions. You’re not planning on any detailed detective work are you? Enjoy the ride like me. In the living room. With a glass of bourbon.