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Posts tagged ‘sequels’

Media Log: 02.19.2012 – PARADISE LOST 3, THE GREY

West Memphis 3, Paradise Lost 3

(cinema) Paradise Lost 3, Purgatory (d. Joel Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, 2011) It’s been 16 years and two sequels since I saw the first Paradise Lost documentary at the Film Forum in New York City. I’m glad the wrongfully accused are set free but I still feel the truth rots a in dark, incarcerated place. I remember that the first documentary, a compelling story of wrong compounded by wrong, was also a frustratingly unthorough piece of journalism. The synopsis is that in 1993 three eight year old boys were murdered and thrown in a ditch in West Memphis, Arkansas. Three teenage boys, to be nicknamed the West Memphis 3, were convicted of the murders under highly questionable investigatory and judicial procedures. The first film fell well short for me in providing a sufficient account of the prosecution’s so called case. A year after seeing the first PL the friend I went to see it with called me up and said, “I heard those documentary guys made it all up to make the teenagers look good. When you hear the whole story they are totally guilty.” Really? What’s your source? None, really. Is there a whole story?  I have always been convinced that the teenagers were railroaded. But after years of sequels, cult-like public outrage, websites, Eddie Vedder and Johnny Depp I still have no idea what happened back in 1993. If the WM3 were not murdering cub scouts that night in 1993, where were they? None of these films have ever discussed an alibi. If a documentary is presenting itself as the balanced account of its subject matter and one side of the argument is being left out, there must be a reason. I can’t speculate the reason because facts in this case have always been overshadowed by emotions, self-righteousness on behalf of the WM3 supporters, stubborn obfuscation by law enforcement, and repeated attempts by the filmmakers to offer alternative accusations that frankly are as shoddy and irresponsible as the lousy case against the teenagers. There is another feature documentary ,West Of Memphis, in circulation as well as many tv magazine pieces which may provide more information. I’d like to know if there is more to know about what happened the night those young boys were murdered, and I’d like to know more about what the police actually had on the WM3. In Purgatory the defense has gone to all the trouble of pulling together world renown criminal profilers and DNA experts. Yet the new documentary doesn’t reveal one thing we didn’t already know. These films succeeded in calling attention to injustice perpetrated on the accused and the fact that the real killer will never be brought to justice. The Arkansas court system created an outcome in which the case will never be reopened. The whole story is fascinating and sad, but these movies aren’t very good either. ๏ ๏ outof ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏… The Grey(d. Joe Carnahan, 2012) An airplane transporting ruffian oil workers

The Grey. Your enemy or your conscience?

crashes in barren Alaska. The men must try to survive arctic conditions, interpersonal conflicts, and attacks by an aggressive pack of wolves. The wolves are of course metaphor for the organizational behavior of a pack of men on the brink as well as the haunting pasts that brought each man to this frozen Purgatory. The challenge includes lots of tense survival action and man-chewing wolves, but what keeps the film interesting are the metaphysical elements, both in the blurry camerawork and the cryptic storytelling. Is this situation real or are we in the self-exiled imagination of the central character? Not brilliant but  an experience, however harrowing. ๏ ๏ ๏ out of ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏ ๏… (theatre) West Side Story (RISE theater company at Stadium Performing Arts Center, Woonsocket, RI) I go to a lot of community theater and you might think I am fortunate to live in a place where there are many local companies. One has to approach community theatre with prejudice of lowered expectations. Some of the worst crap in the world gets to Broadway with multi-million dollar underwriting. Under what circumstances can one expect no-budget theatre to be any better? Surprisingly often the risk does pay off in community. I see performers all the time who have dedicated their lives to craft and not to making it big. But “big” took on new meaning for me in seeing this production of WSS when the curtain went up on a cast of teenagers who were mostly all overweight. I’m not kidding. I don’t know anything about casting a play in suburban area where your company may also be completing with a lot of other companies, but surely someone had to realize the absurdity. WSS is as much a dancing show as it is musical as no one wants to see roly-poly people rolling around on the stage floor. I will say that the lead vocals were excellent. But the show itself seemed out of the director’s grasp. The pacing was awkward, the actors were bad, and the choreography was an embarrassment waiting for wincing audience. Whoever you are RISE, you need to set your ambitions lower for now and find material that is appropriate for your acting pool.

MEDIA LOG – 01.10.2012

(cinema) Tinker Tailor Solider Spy, d. Thomas Alfredson, 2011. I’m sure there are people who love this British Cold War cloak and dagger stuff. I’m either too dumb or too impatient to keep up with mysterious plots that turn on a word mumbled over a reel-to-reel tape recorder in a dark room. I might also benefit from an English to English lesson as everything including the title in TTSS requires having foreknowledge of British noir lingo as well as the political context. I’m pretty sure Gary Oldman is great playing the role of soft spoken detective who struggles to contain his outrage, but I miss Robert Mitchum. The ending where Oldman sets a trap to draw out the mole totally confounded me. I watched it twice and I still don’t get it. If anyone can explain it, I come with a degree in media studies and I’m all ears. 2 movie spotlights… Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, d. Guy Ritchie, 2011. The reboot of Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. in the lead a couple of years ago set out to depict the iconic detective character as uninhibited, amoral, Saturnalian, and manic. If the original Holmes was a little neurotic, the new one is supposed to be bat-shit crazy. That was an update I could live with as Robert Downey was so good and the movie was well produced. There were great effects and modern editing trends but Victorian London was believably dark and pugilistic. The action sequences were an engaging addition to a good detective story. Game of Shadows abandons the detectiving of Holmes and Watson to show them instead as adventure characters. And I find the whole adventure pretty uninteresting. What we get is an endless series of escape sequences from boring villains. Sherlock’s sleuthing acumen has become either quasi-supernatural or silly and defiant of logic. The special effects are impressive, but what Guy Ritchie has done with Holmes is turn the legend and the franchise into a video game. 1 movie spotlight… Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, d. Nicholas Meyer, 1982. Somebody just told me that after Wrath of Khan all the makers of subsequent Star Trek movies felt they had to unfairly compete with Khan, that the series reached its high watermark early. I think a lot of the films are great, especially the last two from Next Generation, Nemesis and Insurrection. Wrath of Khan is great because the characters are familiar enough that the story has time to explore Kirk’s anxieties about reaching middle age. As a character study this is manifest in Kirk being chased around the galaxy by his demons- an old enemy, his illegitimate son, the death of a friend. I hadn’t seen this movie for years and for the first time I picked up on some big holes in the science. Ironically Khan could be the best script in the series but there are better overall post-Khan Star Trek movies. 3 1/2 movie spotlights.

BSD Movie Log: A Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Freddy's Revenge

A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985, d. Jack Sholder)

Teenage Jesse and his family move into the same house on Elm Street where the teenage girl of the first movie was terrorized in her dreams by the psychotic spector Freddy Krueger.  Now Freddy is haunting Jesse’s dreams and wants to make Jesse his living avatar for murdering people in the living world.

After successful use of the familiar “last surviving girl” motif, the first Nightmare on Elm Street sequel went with a story centered around terrorizing a teenage boy.  Not a bad direction to take, but horror movies are cathartic fantasy and male protagonist victims always come off a little gay.  If they didn’t mean for it all to come off gay here they should have maybe cut the scene where the teenage boy in the gym shower psychokineticly strips his bondage fetishist coach naked and lashes him to death with jump rope.  There are a lot of weird homoerotic scenes if you like that.  Otherwise this is below average material.

Paranormal Too

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010, d. Tod Williams)

Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” went to #1 on the Billboard charts twice.   His sequel “Let’s Twist, Again” only made it to #8.  Paranormal Activity, from 2009, was derivative of other horror movies using hand-held video and a found-footage conceit, but it was a creative twist.  As for Paranormal Activity 2, I’m sorry, but sequel, prequel… whatever, you don’t get credit for making the same movie twice.

A married couple brings their newborn baby home to their suburban dramatization, and unhealthily video tapes every living moment of their unextraordinary lives.  After the house is curiously vandalised, but not robbed, they install an elaborate security camera system that documents every inch of their  laminate and Oak Express interiors.  So, most of the found-footage from this point on comes via those cameras (which actually helps to address a lot of the “if their so freaked out why do they keep filming it?” criticisms).  What we see, from our fly on the wall view,  is the hour by hour behavior of some evil apparition, a demon in the house,  gradually more and more ornery.  Mostly the demon comes in the form of a crescendo of audience-jarring noises.  At the beginning of the movie we hear a snap.  By the middle is ascends to a crackle.  And finally, near the end, the intense pop!  My question is, if the demon is so pissed off, why doesn’t he just start terrorizing the family at full volume?  Eventually it’s revealed that the demon is after the baby.  Well, he should just ask for it.  Instead we have 90 minutes of the same wondering when something’s going to  happen , the same zombie lady standing around possessed for hours sped-up – all the same spooky tricks used in PA1.  In between there’s the continuation of the vague, cursed family back story that has really nothing to do with what’s happening in front of us.

Paranormal Activity 2 operates on this marinating model to build dramatic impact.  That would be fine if it weren’t the exact same drama building device they used in the first movie.  I don’t dislike Paranormal Activity 2.  I just think my movie dollar should stretch farther.

What's EATGNU? (or Jeepers Creepers! Its The Gay Bogeyman!)

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club. Track down today’s movie and post your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended features are:

Jeeper Creepers (2001)

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003)

I finally watched both of the  Jeepers Creepers movies for the fist time after seeing a post that including them among The Most Unintentionally Gay Horror Movies [link].  I have to admit both were great, though not because they were unintentionally gay.  In fact, calling Jeepers Creepers unintentionally gay would be like saying the Kennedy assasinations were the result of unfortunate accidental gun discharges.  The serial of these films is most assuredly about a man-eating monster who favors the flavor of men.

In Jeepers Creepers a young brother and sister couple are driving home on break from college on a desolate country road.  Darry is bringing his laundry home to mother, who we are told dotes on him.  Trish is taking time off from her boyfriend to pepper little brother with jibes about his full masculinity and the suggestion that maybe people “know something you don’t.”  They cross paths with a menacing truck driver, who has the vanity license plate BEATNGU.  They witness the guy dumping sheet-wrapped bodies down a drainage pipe.  The kids sneak back to investigate the pipe and Darry daringly crawls in.   At the bottom he uncovers the body of a naked young man who has had his torso dissected and resown.  Further into the cavern Darry finds hundreds of dismembered corpses sewn into the walls like a quilt.  Darry and Trish drive to a roadside diner where they contact the police.  In the meantime, the killer has been tracking the couple.  Darry had used a pair of his dirty underwear, unintentionally died pink in the laundry, to tie down the broken trunk of their car, and this served as an unintentional baiting device.  The killer breaks into the car to enjoyably sniff the laundry and confirm that Darry has something he wants.  A policeman arrives and is escorting the couple’s car home when the patrol car is attacked and the kids get their first good look at The Creeper.  Despite attempting to  disguise himself with a wide brim hat and a tattered black duster, The Creeper is a tall moth-like monster with scales on his skin, and wings.  He is a creature who looks somewhere between Japanese kaiju horror monster Mothra and Clint Eastwood in Pale Rider.  In a demonstration of sadisitc homoeroticism, The Creeper decapitates the male police offficer with a home-forged hachet, and bites the tongue out of the severed head.  Darry and Trish escape to a police station where a local psychic, who has also been following them in her visions, catches up to notify them of what she’s learned from the dreams.   The Creeper, who aparently emerges from dormancy every 23 years for a 23 day feeding period, sniffs out people for specific body parts that he desires and eats.  She also implies that Darry, despite his denial, already knows what the monster wants of him.  I won’t spoil the movie, but suffice it to say that the end is more proof of The Creeper’s specific interest in male bodies and homoerotic voyerism .  I read this as an allusion to the idea of gay men may fetishizing male body parts, that they want to build a fantasy male from the combined parts of different men.

We get another clue what The Creeper has  desire for in the beginning of  Jeepers Creepers 2 when he swoops into a cornfield and flys away with an attractive, toe-headed teenage boy.  Nearby a school bus is  transporting a boys high school basketball team, and a few of their cheer girls, down the same country highway a few days after the incidents of the first Jeepers movie.  Where Jeepers 1 was a stand alone horror story, Jeepers 2 begins more similarly to what I would consider a copycat teen slasher movie: a lost group of teen characters are hunted and methodically killed according to an implicit order of punishment for boorish behavior and/or fornication.  Here, The Creeper disables the school bus on an isolated road and kills all the adult chaparones to enhance a sense of helplessness and  fear on behalf of the teens.  We learned in the first movie that fear emanates some scent The Creeper uses to identify which victims present the most desirable body parts.  In a scene I can only describe as out of the ordinary, The Creeper, while hanging upside down in the bus window points through the crowded alies of the bus at each of the teens he intends to consume, like picking live catch from a restaurant aquarium.  If the implication in the fact that each of his menu selections are male is still unclear, he advertizes his interest in the last boy with a disgusting, erotic sweep of his steaming tounge.  As The Creeper begins to tear apart the bus and pick off his selected male victims, the teens argue over whether they are safer on or off the bus, and whether they should take the doubtful step of dividing themselves into groups as The Creeper’s chosen and unchosen.  Ultimately this debate is of little value as when the kids make a run for it, The Creeper finds his marked boys and wings away with them anyway.  What they fear most is unavoidable.

To my surprise this teen horror movie turns far from the copycat rythm as the teenagers spend much of the time defending themselves not only from the attacks of the monster, but from the prejeudices of their peers.  In the midst of crisis some kids show the character to see the importance of being a team, other fall into patterns of self-preservation and bigotry.  There are unsubtle opinions raised about race, social status, and explicitly in the other boy’s suspicion of the “gay” kid.  The high school sports journalist Izzy, is frequently accused of being gay, “Izzy or isn’t he?”  As in the first Jeepers film, homosexuality left in question is ultimately more important than getting a definitive answer.  Where analysis of teen horror film often proposes a subtext of adolescent anxieties about sex, procreation, and marriage, Jeepers Creepers is a unique mainstream discourse in male anxiety about suppressed homosexual feelings.  If you are a regular boy and a gay monster, after smelling all your peers, selects you, what does that say about you?  Does the monster know something you don’t?  In the story the alleged real gay boy is actually overlooked by the The Creeper and survives to act heroically.  The Creeper is not only an eroticised homosexual killer, he violently demonstrates the terror of a sexual monster within, the fear of what happens to men who are tempted by underlying homosexual desire.

Its worth noting that despite being a different kind of text for a horror movie, the classic feminist critique of an ever present male gaze continues to stare longingly.  It’s just looking in the mirror now.  The Trish character in the first movie and the cheer girls on the bus still have little agency in these stories.   She is now just a bystander as opposed to the obect of male fetishism.  As a selection for the Halloween Movie Club, there are other reasons to like the Jeepers movies besides the feminist critique and the homoerotic text.  Both movies are sharply written, genuinely suspensful, and well acted.

Finally there is public information available about the film director having spent time in jail for child molestation before these movies were ever made.  I think knowing that may be prejudical to first time viewing although it opens the discussion to some other interesting analogies.  I recommend watching the movies before looking deeper into the director’s biography.

Jeepers Creepers (2001, d. Victor Salva)

Jeepers Creepers 2 (2003, d. Victor Salva)

BSD Halloween Movie Club: Amityville II, The Possession

The Brown Shoe Diaries Halloween Movie Club.

Watch today’s movie and posts your comments.   Good?  Lame?  Scary?  Not scary?  Bring it.


Today’s recommended feature is:

Amityville II: The Possession (1982, d. Damiano Damiani)

If you’re a fan of the original Amityville Horror movie from 1979 or the 2005 remake, this sequel is the prequel.  If you’ve never seen The Amityville Horror, this one works as a stand alone as well.  The first Amityville Horror was based on the  terrors of the Lutz family who moved into the Long Island, pumpkin-eye windowed, Dutch Colonial house unaware that it had recently been the site of the grizzly Defeo family murders.  Amityville Possesssion is drawn from the story of the Defeos, although there isn’t any reference to the Lutz incidents and there’s no indication in the script or art direction of time setting.  The real Lutz incident is to have taken place in 1975; the preceding Defeo murders in 1973.

Standing in for the Defeo’s are the fictional Montelli’s, who also purchase the Amityville house for a dime and soon become the surprised victims of it’s aggressive behavior.  Then the teenage son is overtaken by a demon and goes on a shooting rampage inside the house.  A family priest feels responsible for not trying hard enough to save the family.  The priest kidnaps the teenager from police custody and takes him back to the house to perform an unauthorized exorcism, a dramatic showdown between good and evil.

Amityville Possession is a paint-by-number haunted house movie, another in a long list of The Exorcist copycats, and you don’t need a degree in psychology to break down the obvious metaphor between evil spirits and sexual temptation.  However, they did a great job with scary effects and sound.  Also,  there are some big surprises in the last third of the movie that all happen after family is murdered.

If you want to watch The Amityville Horror before or after, the 2005 version is an excellent remake, made almost beat-for-beat, accept for the ending.  I prefer the 1979 version because the filmmaking is grittier. Rod Steiger is great as the family priest and James Brolin is a slow-boiling kettle of phycho.

There are a also a bunch of Amityville sequels I haven’t seen.  Some apparently continue the story of the house, some are just sponging from the name.  A guy buys a stapler from the Amityville house estate sale and now his office is haunted sort of thing:

Amityville 3D: The Demon (1983)

Amityville 4: The Evil Escapes (1989)

The Amityville Curse (1990)

Amityville: It’s About Time (1992)

Amityville: A New Generation (1993)

Amityville Dollhouse (1996)

Feel free to comment on this post if you know any of these to be good.

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The Amityville Horror (1979, d. Stuart Rosenberg)

The Amityville Horror (2005, d. Andrew Douglas)

Dukes of Moral Hazard

Moral Hazard – The risk that a party insulated from risk behaves differently than it would behave if it were fully exposed to the risk.  For example, when a stock broker takes more investment risk with a client’s money than he might be inclined to take with his own money.

If you’re thinking about watching Wall Street before going to see the years-in-waiting sequel Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, I can’t tell you whether you’ll find the first movie better than second or the second one worst than the first.   I remembered not liking the first one so much but I think now if I’ve been under appreciating it since 1987.  In that movie Bud (Charlie Sheen) is a dime-a-dozen, boiler room stock broker stuffed in a office stall with cold kung-pao, cold sales calls and bad stock leads.  But Bud has the ambition to outgrow his Long Island blue collar roots, and he cold knocks at Gordon Gekko’s (Michael Douglas) swank office.   Gekko is a wealthy, megalomaniacal stock arbitrageur, but he is also uncharacteristically impressed with Bud’s chutzpa.  He takes the young trader under his vulture wing to teach the real Wall Street racket and the techniques of illegal insider trading.  Bud has come with insider knowledge about the struggling airline where his father works as a maintenance foreman.   Bud and Gekko devise a plot to take over the airline.  When Bud figures out that Gekko’s scheme is just a self-serving con, he has a crisis of conscious.  Bud plots his own takeover.  He out-cons his mentor.  When the Feds come in and the walls come tumbling down, Bud turns evidence on Gekko.

Ivan Boesky

The Gordon Gecko character was inspired by the true story of Wall Street corporate raider Ivan Boesky whose brazen stock acquisitions and subsequent prosecution for insider trading was a legendary story of conspicuous greed.    Gekko became a reference figure in cinema, an icon of the self-indulgent Reagan era, and a commonly cited symbol of  mistrust for  the stock market itself.  Gekko’s signature line “Greed is good” is to this day a catchphrase for some, and a siren for  others.

It’s not surprising that director Oliver Stone would see the recent Great Recession, largely caused by deregulated, overleveraged Wall Street speculators, as a poetic opportunity to spring Gekko out of Club Fed.  In Money Never Sleeps it’s 2008 and Gekko’s estranged daughter is engaged to Jacob (Shia Labeouf), another ambitious young stock broker from an unpronounceable town on Long Island.  Jacob, however, has risen in the business quickly with true genius and determination.  He seeks $100 million in investment capital for his pet project, a high-tech green energy platform.  When his investment bank is raided by a sleazy takeover artist, an event that also prompts the suicide of his business mentor and father-figure, Jacob turns to future father-in-law Gekko for information and advice.  Jacob plots to sink the new corporate pirates not for money, but for personal revenge.

It’s at this point the movie wanders away from being a story about the recent Wall Street collapse and government bailout, to something else about personal corruption, revenge, and moral hazard amongst loved ones.  It is almost the inverse story of the first movie where issues of moral responsibility conducted between Bud and his father were an analogy to business ethics.  Wall Street is a movie about playing a sick game with others people’s money and future security.  I see it now as a compelling character study in the impudence these thieves had to act so outwardly greedy.  Gekko, is an Oscar awarded performance by Michael Douglas, and well deserved throughout.  In Money Never Sleeps, there is about one opportunity to revive this performance similarly.  Gekko is re-introducing himself to the public as a reformed criminal, real or put-on, we don’t know yet.    It’s the most important moment of the film and for some reason they selected to edit in fades and cross audio that completely distract from the scene.  Money Never Sleeps is full of odd distractions in editing stunts, superfluous scenes between Jacob and his witless mother, and kooky David Byrne musical interludes.  Now, I have to admit to being kind of a Credit Default Swap geek.  So I was disappointed that the story of the 2008 bank meltdowns was abandon mid-way for  a less interesting, triangular relationship plot between Gekko and the young couple (although the idea of Jacob and Gekko meeting behind the daughter’s back as analogous to “insider trading” is a clever literary tool).  I don’t want to ruin it any, but in the end Gekko, a sophisticated but troubled soul, turns into a villain of Gotham City proportions.  What’s passed off as a resolution between he and his daughter either makes a complete fool out of her or out of us.

Besides the Douglas performance, one of the other things I’ve underappreciated about Wall Street is that it’s kind of a small movie about the big subject insider trading.  I think it’s scale helps to make the subject accessible.  Wall Street:Money Never Sleeps either has no confidence in its audience or is  too lazy to take on the unwieldy subject matter.  Personally I would have preferred more dramatic exposition about sub-prime mortgages, collateralized debt obligations, and credit derivative securities; the titans and tyrants of Wall Street!   But the movie never finds its bearings.  Its actors are first rate, but underutilized.  The focus on individual ax grinding, family betrayal, and questionable redemption reduces it to TV melodrama.  It’s too bad the movie didn’t borrow more from its predecessor.  I’d still like to know more about what really happened on Wall Street in 2008 and where the hell all our money went.

Wall Street (1987, d. Oliver Stone)

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (2010, d. Oliver Stone)