Posts Tagged ‘of

09
Mar
09

Ink Review

ink2A question that’s rung in my head since first hearing about the movie Ink, was what relevance the title of the film held. From the first moments of the trailer, and subsequently the film, I knew I was in for a movie that had calculated its’ steps carefully, creating something in between an eloquent waltz and an algebra equation. I knew that the title was another vital part of the whole experience, and that deciphering it’s meaning was another key to unlocking the many mysteries that lay inside the delicate layers of Ink’s story.

That story, written by Jamin Winans, is a tale of multi-dimensional dream weavers, consisting of one bad stable and one good one. The good ones, dubbed Storytellers, give us good dreams by visiting us in our rooms once we’ve fallen asleep and gently waving there hands slowly by our heads. The bad ones, called the The Incubi, give us the nightmares. Beyond the ability to grant dreams, these people also battle over the souls of those who are sleeping.

Ink's spectacular makeup and look.

Ink's spectacular makeup and look help solidify him as our complicated, yet menacing antagonist.

This is more or less where our story begins. A drifter, one who is stuck in between life and death, named Ink is propositioned by the Incubi to steal the soul of a seemingly insignificant little girl named Emma, in exchange for the ability to become an Incubi himself. Emma’s estranged father, John, is also battling staggeringly high odds, both physically and emotionally, due to a demanding and stressful job, and the weight of his own guilt and shame. The rest is quite simply too exciting and emotionally propelling to spoil for the sake of this review.

The first thing that one notices about Jamin Winans film Ink, is that it is in an entire league of it’s own in terms of visual style. While some influences are noticeable, Jamin takes the idea of kinetic and potential energy in a movie to new heights. The pace is fluid, only jumping a beat to drive home a scene or a moment, then quickly snaps back into place, driving the narrative along briskly enough to demand a viewers full attention without overloading and confusing them. The editing is so precise, so flawless, that it begins to feel almost euphoric. Jamin manipulates the order of certain events, in order to keep viewers on there toes about where the story is heading. There is no point in the movie where I could clearly say what was going to happen next, and that feeling of wonderment and vulnerability is something that has stuck with me even through writing this piece. It’s a hypnotizing film, and it never sacrifices the gravity of what’s happening on screen in favor of giving you a flashy, “Hollywood” shot that only looks great on movie posters. This film exudes an aura of tremendous planning brought to life by even more impressive execution.

The cinematogaphy is remarkable, looking even better while in full motion.

The cinematography is remarkable, looking even better when in full motion.

Hand in hand with the visual buffet, is the equally sublime audio package. From the old-timey camera snap-and-flicker sound effect used for when storytellers teleport in, to the visceral crunch of a perfectly placed uppercut, to the appropriate tinkering and manipulation of certain voices to help give them an other worldly feel, the effects are all nothing short of innovative. Everything sounds crisp and distinctive, and every action is accounted for. Holding all the aforementioned technical elements together is a subtle, oceanic, and deeply emotional score, written by Jamin Winans. The score is reminiscent of some of John Muprhy’s work, as well as some of Danny Elfmans’ dreamier, calmer material. But Jamin really shows he has the patience, style, and talent to not only create a great stand alone score, but also one that personifies and amplifies perfectly everything his film has to say. Not enough can be said about how much the score adds to the entire feel of the film, something not seen enough in the days of soundtracks where popular artists write a soulless song that supposedly represents the movie.

An Incubi, who brings nightmares.

An Incubi, who brings nightmares.

Along with the groundbreaking special effects (see the reconstructing furniture fight scene for evidence of this) there is the cinematography of Jeff Pointer. All the different planes of existence in Ink’s world are accompanied by a strikingly different palette of colors and lighting techniques. It not only creates the appearance that they are entirely different dimensions, it becomes other dimensions altogether. Due to the digital filming techniques I am almost sure Jamin Winans used extensively while shooting Ink, he gains an incredible amount of control over lighting, filters, color correction and saturation, which he uses to great dramatic effect. They also function perfectly as cues that we have begun to look in on a different scene, and helps indicate silently where we are, who were are with, and with whom there alliances lay.

But if Ink is anything, it’s a damn good story. The story is so luminary, so rife with honest humanity and emotion that it’s near impossible not to invoke some kind of serious, introspective moment within you while watching. It’s not the kind of emotion that make boyfriends not want to go see the romance flick with their girlfriends, it’s the kind of emotion that’s intrinsic within the human conscious. It’s about loss, innocence, desire, motivation, and possibly above all, hope. The film makes some very philosophical observations on the sordid perils of everyday life, but it makes them in a passive, courteous way. It acknowledges that we are, to a degree, the sum of our parts and past experiences, but it also points out that there is always the opportunity for radical change. Jamin manages to ease his way into some very heady, intellectual space without losing sight of the plot and the characters I found myself heavily invested in. This alone is quite an achievement.

The sunny, surine dimension of the Storytellers.

The sunny, serene dimension of the Storytellers.

All those points wouldn’t have been so well conveyed without actors who really seemed to understand the vision of Jamin. Consider that a non-issue though, as all the actors and actresses playing there roles without incident, with no one seeming out of place or terribly miscast. Extra credit must go to Chris Kelly for playing John and Jessica Duffy for playing Liev, whose performances were simply to sensational not to mention. There isn’t really much else I can say about the cast other then Jamin Winans must’ve have had at least some, if not all, of the actors and actress’s in mind when he wrote the script, because the roles seem tailor made for the individuals playing them. They are always shown in their best light, the emotion that Jamin squeezed from them seems as genuine as anything I’ve even seen. If there’s one thing that’s evident in independent film making, it’s the passion of those involved. It’s the whole reason independent film making still exists, because I assure you, it isn’t for the money. In Ink’s case, the movie is overflowing with determination and fire, which helps envelope the viewer in the vibrant, awe-inspiring world that this magical yarn is spun in.

The only obstacle I can see any audience having a major problem with, would be the sheer emotional investment and outside the box thinking a movie this cavernous can require for full enjoyment and understanding. It’s all about invading the comfortable areas of your life, it’s about turning the mirror on yourself, and it’s about the stuff all of us have deep inside, regardless of whether or not we pretend it’s not there. It’s story is not only timely, but timeless. There is no restriction on when a tale like this could be told.

Our Storytellers along with their quirky, philospoical guide, The Pathfinder.

Our Storytellers along with their quirky, philosophical guide, The Pathfinder.

In the end, I think I’ve found the answer to my original question, and that the answer may be that we are all Ink. We are all different colors, different viscosity, and different blends. We are the instruments of change, both good and bad, but we are not immune to them ourselves. The randomness of life can be extremely disruptive, and seem devoid of pattern, reason and predictability, but just because the last few moments, days, or years have blindsided you, it doesn’t mean you are lost forever. At least, that’s how I saw it.

Jamin Winans has concocted a potent narrative, one that is as focused as can be, while still leaving enough room for individual interpretation. It is assembled in such a way that not only promotes, but encourages multiple viewings. Technically speaking, there is nothing that could be done better within the budget, and the acting is all fitting, bringing believability and heft to each role, while naturally allowing the main figures to steal the show. Ink deserves a special place inside the hollowed halls of great intellectual cinema, here’s to hoping it takes its rightful places in that gallery one day.

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24
Jan
09

REPO! The Genetic Opera Review (Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman of SAW fame)

Badass.  Digging the Communist theme.

Badass. Digging the Communist theme.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is the brainchild of Darren Lynn Bousman, who most of you know as one half of the team that made SAW such an immensely popular and lucrative franchise, and buddy Terrance Zdunich, who is mainly a storyboard artist working on movies and TV shows.

Here’s a quick snapshot of the plot.

In the year 2056 – the not so distant future – an epidemic of organ failures devastates the planet. Out of the tragedy, a savior emerges: GeneCo, a biotech company that offers organ transplants, for a price. Those who miss their payments are scheduled for repossession and hunted by villainous Repo Men. In a world where surgery addicts are hooked on painkilling drugs and murder is sanctioned by law, a sheltered young girl searches for the cure to her own rare disease as well as information about her family’s mysterious history. After being sucked into the haunting world of GeneCo, she is unable to turn back, as all of her questions will be answered at the wildly anticipated spectacular event: The Genetic Opera. Written by Lionsgate

If there’s one thing that is grossly apparent right off the bat, it’s that Bousman and Zdunich have a lot of respect and love for cult classics such as Rocky Horror Picture Show and also seem influenced by more elegant and classic opera works such as Phantom of the Opera.  There’s even a bit of The Who’s rock opera Tommy in there.  It’s no shock that the mind that helped push the SAW franchise forward would be able to create a Gothic, dystopian future, but credit must be given for slick, yet earthly atmosphere embedded in the sometimes hallucinogenic visuals of the film.  It looks great, period.

Bousman manages to keep the narrative moving along swiftly with great focus, even while dealing with the difficult medium of opera.  That’s right kids, an opera where no word of dialogue is ever simply “said.”  Unlike musicals, where there can be breaks in between musical passages to drive the story home with normal movie dialogue, Bousman ensures that every word is “sung”, which can be very awkward at first when your not expecting it.  It’s difficult to accurately describe, but once you see and hear it you will clearly understand what obstacles must have popped up from this bold and daring choice.  Other than that, Bousman also unleashes some incredibly awesome graphic novel panels to fill us in VERY quickly of a particular characters background.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

Paul Sorvino and his shotgun-wielding ninja chick bodyguards.

It may be a tricky type of film to make, but Bousman is a razor-sharp horror producer and director, and knew that if he brought in the right talent, he would have a chance to lure in a slew of fans regardless of the experimental nature of the film.  Paris Hilton (Super Global Slut) , Anthony Head (Giles from the Buffy TV Series), Sarah Brightman (acclaimed opera/classical singer and once married to Lloyd Weber who wrote Phantom of the Opera), Bill Moseley (Of House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devils Rejects fame) and Paul Sorvino round out the eclectic nucleus of the cast.  Terrance Zdunich also has a fairly large role as the Graverobber, and steals the show with his “Zydrate Anatomy” song.  The cast is, like so many aspects of this brave venture into total cult cinema, uneven throughout, with those who can sing clearly being more enjoyable and tolerable than those who can’t, with Alexa Vega and Bill Moseley probably being the two biggest culprits.  Hopefully the star power and notoriety brought by those actors outweighs the damage they have done by simply being the weak links vocally.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes.  And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way.  She probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Sarah Brightman definitely has some bitchin' pipes. And she's kinda sexy, in that scary way. She's probably a goddamn witch in real life.

Which leads me to my assessment of the acting itself, which again can be easily defined as uneven.  While some amount of over and under acting is perfectly acceptable in horror, especially in something this theatrical and over the top, but sometimes the cartoon like personalities crossed the line between tasteful and embarrassingly out of place.  At times the actors would play very serious, as if this carried the same weight as The Phantom of the Opera, and at other times it was clear everyone was having fun and things were much more airy and carefree.  I waited for the flick to settle down, and choose a definite mood and direction, but it never did, as it gleefully jumped back and forth between trying to be emotionally heavy and serious, and being grin-worthy, funny and lightweight.  Maybe I am reading to much into something that can’t truly be defined, but I would have loved to see some lines drawn pertaining to acceptable behavior from all characters, as you would with any other film.

She got the creepy, goggley eyes.  Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

She's got the creepy, googly eyes. Burn at the stake, you kinda-sexy witch.

The final piece of the Repo puzzle is one that isn’t a very common problem in movies, the soundtrack.  That’s not to say all movies has great soundtracks, but they also don’t rely as heavily as Repo does on its’ music.  So how does the song selection hold up?  Take a guess.

UNEVEN.

Some of the songs, like Zydrate Anatomy and Legal Assassin knock it completely out of the park, while others are either too short or too gimmicky to be considered truly great. While taste is bound to vary from viewer to viewer, I felt the music was acceptable, but could’ve benefitted from maybe one or two ballads complete with verses, chorus, and a bridge and a few more rock and roll anthems.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

There's also some gore, which is very well done, but used very rarely.

I, like so many of you, have waited for years, eagerly anticipating this movie to be released in any format, anywhere.  And while it may look and sound like I have nothing but negative things to say about Repo!, I feel it’s a case of me being exceptionally critical of a piece of work I felt had all ingredients to really show the world how versatile the “horror” genre can truly be.  Repo is by no means a failure, but instead comes off as a combination of over-indulgence and lofty ambitions.  It succeeds at what it aimed to do, but the cost for achieving that goal may be a dent in Bousman’s reputation, depending on how this is received in the community.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this vehicle can be used to create an amazing, genre-bending film, but Repo! isn’t that flick.

There’s a lot of psychotropic, semi-gory fun to be had with Repo!, but it’s kinda like looking for a 20 dollar bill in your friends extremely messy room, you know it’s worth it to look, but your gonna have to sift through some shit to get what you want.

28
Dec
08

Alex’s Top 10 Movies of the Year!!!!!!

Greetings fellow Midnighters!!!!  Here is my video of my top ten films of the year.  Sorry it turned out to be much longer than I anticipated, but I had a lot to say.  DIG IN!

11
Oct
08

Dance of the Dead (NOT the Masters of Horror Episode!!)

Little bit of a rip-off of Shaun of the Dead, but still nice.

Little bit of a rip-off of Shaun of the Dead, but still nice.

Dance of the Dead has the look and feel of a disastrous zombie flick.  It has a bunch of no name teenage looking actors and actresses.  A plot (Zombies rise from the dead on the night of the prom and high schoolers have to fight for their lives and their town) ripped from several other zombie movies.  A movie poster eerily similar to that of 2004’s amazing “zombedy” Shaun of the Dead.  And, on top of all this, a director with virtually no feature film directing experience.

But this, true believers (Yes, I just pulled a Stan Lee reference out of my ass.  You don’t like it?  Go read a DC comic then you pussy.  Yeah I know Batman is good, but other than that, DC sucks.) is why we watch movies, and THEN decide if they suck or not.  Or at least some of us do.

Dance of the Dead managed to do something that all good horror, and especially zombie flicks, HAVE to do.  Make the most out of the pieces you have.  If you look back in the legendary genesis of the zombie flick, you will quickly find out that the best of the bunch, even the ones done by famed directors like Romero and Fulci, were done on smaller budgets without the luxury of having big stars to bank on for success.  Dance does this wonderfully, making even the predictable and annoying characters seem likable.  And if they weren’t likable, then they at least had the presence of mind to kill them off early!

This all brings me to my first point.  The cast here, again full of people who’s biggest project to date seems to be Dance of the Dead itself, are all very competent.  The movie is exactly demanding, but it still has a lot of dialogue, and without people to spew those words out, however trite or meaningless, it’s difficult to make a movie work.  The saving grace seems to be the comedy within the conversations though.  Nothing is taken to seriously in Dance of the Dead, and that lightens the load for everyone involved.  It’s a feel good, fun time zombie flick, and the cast seem to reflect that with the youthful energy being the driving force.

Direction here is solid, but not in the least bit flashy or pretentious.  There some nifty use of heavy lighting and filters, the cornerstones of any 80’s “Return of the living Dead” style zombie flick, but other than that, everything’s played pretty straight forward, and I for one have no problem with that.  If you don’t feel comfortable as a director taking chances and being experimental, there’s no need to force it.  That “comfort” is actually a strength to the film, and I felt right at home with the direction, and thankfully nothing was ruined by the dreaded “shaky cam” or choosing shitty angles to shoot the action on.  Simply put, the camera work never gets in the way of the fun.

Gore and special effects are all good, but it’s most likely all stuff experienced zombie fans have seen before.  Doesn’t mean it isn’t highly entertaining, and some of the bullet wounds are particularly graphic.  There’s also a head split in half the long way, and a severed head “still alive” gag that is very cool.  Nothing here will have you howling or calling your friends to tell them “how awesome that kill just was”, but it’s all impressive none the less, and thankfully, almost totally free of any cgi.  Yay!  Here at the Midnight Showing we basically have one rule concerning our gore and special f/x, and that is “Fuck CGI!”

If you couldn’t tell by now, Dance of the Dead is a movie that has all the elements to become a cult classic.  Sure, that’s pretty cliche to say, but when a movie has it, it just has it.  I think the director has a pretty good handle on this zombie thing, and if he continues to interject the brand of humor in his future flicks, he should make some very interesting stuff.  Also, some of the actors and actress’s are surely going to be noticed because of this film.

If your looking for a light-hearted, “Shaun of the Dead” style zombie flick, and you can appreciate flicks that pay obvious homage to what’s come before it (Return of the Living Dead, Night of the Creeps), then you should get plenty of enjoyment out of Dance of the Dead.

If only my prom was overrun by zombies.