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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Schlock therapy

DFT resurrects William Castles’ retro-shock gimmicks

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

William Castle was a director who discovered he had a knack for cheap science fiction and horror and an uncanny sense for publicity. He’d pull such stunts as taking out a $1,000 insurance policy with Lloyd’s of London for any viewer who died of fright while watching a film, or placing oversized joy buzzers in theater seats to jolt audiences during suspenseful moments. For 13 Ghosts (1960) he unveiled “Illusion-O!” a special bifocal handheld viewer that would reveal or hide the ghosts on screen, depending on the viewer’s courage level. Though often referred to as a schlockmeister, Castle’s movies weren’t really that bad. Most of his films are good campy fun and, occasionally deliver unexpectedly creepy moments.

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Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

What really sets this movie apart from the legions of clumsy ’50s drive-in flicks that ended up on Mystery Science Theater 3000 is its blunt, almost primal simplicity, combined with a low-budget technical skill that was, at the time, unseen in the genre. Adapting Jack Finney’s tale of “pod people” bent on human destruction — or rather, replication — Siegel and screenwriter Daniel Mainwaring strip the story down to the essential elements: the seething mistrust that sweeps across a small Southern California town, the breakdowns of family members distraught over their suddenly lobotomized relatives, and the breathless, sleepless foot-chase two lovebirds embark upon to avoid the encroaching throngs of replicants.

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The Nomi Song

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

The Nomi Song, written and directed by Andrew Horn, is a documentary featuring home video footage, interview clips with Klaus Nomi and the requisite talking heads — band mates, journalists, friends, fans and fellow artists who jumped onto Nomi’s back as soon as they saw his incredible act. But Horn cleverly makes a concerted effort to break up the monotony by making his interviewees re-enact Nomi’s performances with paper dolls. But for all Horn’s attempts to engage us with his inventive artistic perspective, the most exquisite moments in The Nomi Song are when it functions as a straightforward music film.

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Forty Shades of Blue

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

The two recent Bill Murray ennui-fests, Broken Flowers and Lost in Translation, illustrate how quietly introspective moments of passion and betrayal can have a cumulative emotional effect as devastating as the soapiest tear-jerkers. In that vein, Ira Sachs’ sophomore feature, Forty Shades of Blue, is a similarly pure, distilled vision of romantic denial, familial angst and parental neglect, directed in a haunting style. It’s everything American independent films have forgotten to be: subdued, observant and far more concerned with the characters’ inner lives than with anything they might say or do.

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North Country

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

If it weren’t a major studio release, North Country would be the best Lifetime movie ever made. That’s not necessarily a slight. True, the film’s schematic script may be little better than the ripped-from-the-headlines issue movies shown on basic cable, and the idea of casting a slew of A-list stars as “simple folk” may smack of Hollywood condescension. But director Niki Caro infuses nearly every moment with a heartrending realism, and coaxes her cast into performances of subtle, understated grace. Even at its most Oscar-baiting moments, this is a movie that feels lived-in instead of calculated, heartfelt instead of thought-out.

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Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Starring Dakota Fanning, Hollywood’s most prolific 11-year-old, this a kid-and-pony show that’ll have equestrian-obsessed youngsters slumbering with visions of horses prancing in their heads for weeks. Dreamer, however, is like Seabiscuit for the SpongeBob set — extremely satisfying for horse lovers but less so for general audiences, at least for those who can tolerate unapologetic displays of can-do positive energy for 90 minutes.

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Doom

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Since most video games are about action and atmosphere, when it comes to adapting the concept into a big-budget motion picture, you’d better have something new up your sleeve. Doom, unfortunately, doesn’t. Screenwriters David Callaham and Wesley Strick have basically thrown Aliens, Predator and Dawn of the Dead in a blender and written something a lot less exciting than any of those films.

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Stay

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2005 at 12:00 AM

Marc Forster is a young director who’s had an incredible string of luck, helping Halle Berry win an Oscar for the resolutely dour Monster’s Ball, and snagging top-notch talent for his restrained crowd-pleaser Finding Neverland. All of his films have at least one false moment, but never have they been as 100 percent bogus and wrong-headed as Stay, a glossy, star-packed flaming crock of shit. Blame it on Troy writer David Benioff’s silly, twist-addled script, but Forster is ultimately responsible for the pointless, showy camera angles, the lame, digitally enhanced edits, and the circa-1995 trip-hop score. His movie is like a perfume commercial attempting to make a profound statement.

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Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Way out fest

Celebrating LGBT culture with selected shorts

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2005 at 12:00 AM

The festival now happens earlier in the year, allowing Reel Pride to more quickly scoop up some of the most talked-about films on the festival circuit in this country and abroad. Now Detroiters don’t have to wait so long to see the lighthearted, screwball comedy The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green or the hot-button German drama Unveiled, in which an Iranian lesbian passes as a man to avoid being sent back to the oppressive conditions in her homeland or the predictable but heartwarming coming-of-age tale Summer Storm, in which a devoutly macho teen rowing team faces their most formidable opponents yet: a talented all-gay crew called “The Queerstrokes.” For a complete schedule, visit reelpridemichigan.com.

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Lacombe, Lucien

Posted By on Wed, Oct 19, 2005 at 12:00 AM

In this 1974 Louis Malle film set during the waning days of WWII, a young man living in German-occupied France winds up working with the Nazis, which offers him, for the first time in his life, a feeling of empowerment. He relishes his newfound control and ability to evoke fear. When Lucien falls in love with a Jewish girl, he neither knows nor cares about the implications until he’s in over his head.

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