Thursday, July 30, 2009

Naked Fear

Reading the description listed for the film Naked Fear reminded me of a book I read years ago called The Most Dangerous Game about a wealthy hunter that has taken to hunting humans on his island home. Having enjoyed that short story, I felt that this movie might be interesting enough to hold my attention for two hours. Although Naked Fear does not have big budget backing, I found the film to worthwhile.

Naked Fear introduces us to a cast of characters in the small town of Santa Paula , New Mexico . The disparity between the number of women in relationship to the number of men make women a commodity in New Mexico . Women are brought in to staff a local strip club with the assistance of a seedy character who basically forces them into the sex industry. The hunting culture in Santa Paula allows for some misdirection (and even the plausibility of a cover-up) regarding the disappearance of several young women from the community. The women are kidnapped and taken to a remote are of New Mexico where they are stripped naked and given a fifteen minute head start by their captor. If they can outsmart the hunter, they earn their freedom. They never seem to succeed.

Although the plot seemed to be lifted from The Most Dangerous Game, the use of strippers added a visually appealing twist to the concept. The characters were not very well developed, but the writer (Christine Vasquez) does a good job at creating a bit of mystery regarding the prime suspect in the disappearances. The dialogue was decent at times and downright stupid at others. The individual who brings new dancers to town would like to be a menacing character…but neither the acting nor the writing for this particular character sold me. He was flat and hard to believe. Another issue with the writing was that you have a resourceful and particularly tenacious girl who is duped into stripping rather than finding a legitimate way to repay the cost of relocating from Texas to New Mexico . It couldn’t have been more than a couple of hundred dollars that she owed the “head hunter.” That entire train of thought was lost on me. However, there were some exchanges that were interesting. The background of a young officer is brought up through conversations which, although far from intellectual, seemed like a natural way to convey some motivations, while contributing to the suspense. Although the writing had ample areas for improvement, it wasn’t completely bad.

The acting was mixed. I felt like the lead character, Diana, was expertly portrayed by Danielle De Luca. Although there were elements of the character that were a bit inconsistent, De Luca did an expert job of using her character to connect with the audience. Joe Montegna played an interesting character that keeps the audience guessing. Is he a straight as an arrow Sheriff or is hiding a dark secret? Maybe he is covering something up. Montegna creates a character in Naked Fear that has some complexity and engages the audience. I found that his character was relevant and an important aspect of the story. Much of it a tribute to Montegna's ability to deliver a multi-layered performance. Arron Shiver was a bit less convincing as the newly hired Sheriff's Deputy Dwight Terry. Shiver was okay, but not exceptional. Another interesting character was Colin Mandel (J.D. Garfield), a cafe owner and avid hunter. Garfield had a role with some challenging elements, which he overcomes smoothly. The performances of Garfield, De Luca and Montegna made Naked Fear worth watching. The rest of the cast were one-dimensional and forgettable.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

One-Eyed Monster

Adam and Jordan Fields were probably smoking something pretty potent when they conceived the idea of a killer cock. I’m not talking about fighting chickens either. And what better bratwurst could they possibly possess than the over-exposed lumber of Ron Jeremy. But how do you create a killer kickstand? How about having the love muscle become taken over by an alien life form, discarding the rest of the body that does not propagate in order to run as efficiently as possible.

An unlikely absurd scenario to say the least. But intriguing none-the-less. I had to laugh at the very premise of this film, and was intrigued enough to actually watch it. So how do you rate an obviously B-Film? Do you rate using the same standard as a big budget production, or do you take into consideration that the entire process is meant to be part comedic, part suspense and low budget. I split the difference.

The aging Ron Jeremy agrees to make a late-in-life film, featuring his nine and a half inch piston. Things seem innocent enough…a group of young aspiring porn stars are driven to a remote cabin along with Ron Jeremy. An aging actress, Veronica Hart, has come along as an advisor on the film, but manages to weasel her way in for a last hoorah. While working up his stamina outside the cabin, Jeremy appears to be struck by a flash of light. A short while later, while filming a scene with Veronica, Jeremy appears to become possessed before falling back on the floor and dying. But not before his knob manages to go mobile. The fugitive flesh then stalks the remaining porn stars, eliminating them one by one in a form of humor that is at times campy, gross or simply laughable. In any event, the drama is far from high drama. But the premise was certainly original.

I could discuss plot, dialogue and character development at great length. But it is much easier to simply say that it was one step above porn film. I move it one step up, because there actually is a plot, and the entire film is not centered around people getting naked and hooking up. In fact, the nudity was extremely minor for a movie about creating a pornographic film. To my recollection, there was only one scene involving naked breasts and a couple of simulated sex scenes with no nudity. One involved a young man and a machine…not very convincing, but humorous. The characters were pretty flat, the dialogue was weak and the plot was mostly predictable. But it was often fun to watch, regardless.

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Monday, July 27, 2009


Okay...I'm a sucker, too. I'm one of those movie-goers who contributed to the phenomenal weekend at the box office for G-Force. But I demand a recount. Just because my three tickets counted as three votes, I want to recast them for Harry Potter. If I had it to do over many of those who went to see this stinker...I would have spent the money on the young magician. And to think I paid the extra two dollars per ticket to see this crap in 3-D!

My issue with G-Force has nothing to do with the cute factor. The film gets five stars for cute. But I expect at least one original or unexpected line in a movie. I do not want to sit through an hour and a half of Disney rehash watching a formulaic plot unravel in unoriginal and predictable blandness. That was the major fallacy of this film...what promised to be Disney magic didn't even fizzle. This forgettable film had nothing new to offer. Even the fart jokes were lame.

I am going to give G-Force credit for the animation and a couple of the actors. The animation was certainly cute, seamless and (ahem) believable. The integration of the characters was done exceptionally well. I like Steve Buscemi in just about anything he does...especially the annoying roles he tends to gravitate to. His bit part in this film was the closest thing to original this film had...but it was a minor diversion with only a slight contribution to the overall plot. I've liked Nicholas Cage in a few films...and have had to admit he has grown on me a bit. He was utterly repulsive in this film. Even though it was voice sounded hammy and contrived.

G-Force tries to survive on great animation while shortcutting on plot. With the number of writers (Cormac and Marianne Wibberly, Ted Elliott, Terry Rossio and Tim Firth developed the screenplay from Hoyt Yeatman's story) you might think that there would be some fresh ideas sprouting from somewhere. A spark of inspiration or a plot twist that no one would expect. Instead, the plot unravels like a first grade reader. In a nutshell, specially trained animals are looking to earn their rank among the elite government investigators by solving a major crime. They face setbacks but use their teamwork to solve the caper before their funding is cut. And there is a twist...although predictable...I will leave that for the viewer to figure out...just in case a first grader might be reading this.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009


When you look at the numbers, the seemingly innocuous number of 0.01 percent of the population who wake up during surgery seems much more startling when one considers 21 million people per year undergo surgery...which is equal to 21,000 incidents per year. The concept of waking up during surgery and aware to pain, but paralyzed from the other drugs in the anesthesia cocktail creates a startling premise upon which to build a suspense film. What an excellent, disturbing concept.

Awake takes the concept of waking during surgery and weaves a story of intrigue and greed around the idea in a manner that makes for a refreshing if not simplistic storyline. Ample foreshadowing provides the viewer with some cues as to what is coming without completely divulging the participants or manner in which the elements would tie together. A degree of supernatural out-of-body type experience allows for the plot to be revealed and gives the writer (Joby Harold, who also Directs) a method for tying together other loose ends. Although the dialogue wasn't necessarily exceptional, the plot lines and character development helped overcome the mediocre dialogue.

Without giving away any important plot details, Awaketells the story of a young prodigy, Clay Beresford (Hayden Christensen) with heart problems, whose life is saved by a struggling Doctor (Jack Harper, played by Terrence Howard) who has a history of malpractice suits. Clay and Dr. Harper form a close bond, which troubles Clay's mother, Lilith (Lena Olin) who can afford the best for her son. And the best seems all that Lilith is willing to accept, creating conflict between the two. The introduction of a love interest, Sam (Jessica Alba) creates further strain on Clay's relationship with his mother.

The acting in Awake failed to meet the same standard as the plot. Although Howard and Olin were decent, I did not care much for Christensen or Alba. They didn't seem to have good chemistry. I had trouble buying into their relationship. Some of the scenes between Olin and Christensen seemed to be a bit off as well. I'm not sure what the source was, but I had trouble believing the relationships.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Revolutionary Road

Kate Winslet was refreshing in The Reader. Her performance in The Reader made the novel film exceptional. Kate is a solid actress. Leonardo DiCaprio is slowly growing on me. The most recent film I have seen with DiCaprio in it was The Blood Diamond, which he brought great life to. The two have decent chemistry as evidenced by Titanic. However, this film was a poor choice for them to reunite in.

Revolutionary Road takes place in Connecticut in the years following World War II. A young man and woman fall in love after the war. A picture of the soldier standing in front of the Eiffel Tower inspires the half-baked idea to sell their house and move to Paris with their two children. The idea and the marriage fall apart with the announcement of an unexpected, unplanned pregnancy. The pregnancy affects both of the main characters in different ways creating a division that seems impossible to breach. Irrational decisions lead to loss.

The worst thing about Revolutionary Road was the pacing. Independent films are after slow and require patience for the rewarding storyline. Revolutionary Road tested that patience for a full two hours, while never really delivering anything of substance. Yes, it was a depressing film with controversial subject matter and a few great comic diversions, but for the most part, the script was tired and boring. Revolutionary Road managed to lose my attention several times when it got bogged down with the sluggish pacing.

In contrast to the terrible pace of this film, Revolutionary Road had phenomenal acting all the way around. DiCaprio is slowly starting to win me over...I used to strongly dislike him as an actor. I can sum up his skill with a closing scene, where DiCaprio displays emotion the emits both loss and lack of direction. When his character is called by one of his children, he manages to maintain that displaced look while acknowledging the child with a distant smile that seemed genuinely forced through the fog of depression. That single scene demonstrated the gift that DiCaprio has for immersing himself in character. There were some excellent arguments between DiCaprio's character, Frank Wheeler and his wife April (Kate Winslet). These exchanges deomonstrated great skill from both players.

With headliners like Winslet and DiCaprio, it might be easy to overlook the supporting cast, but not in this film. If nothing else, Revolutionary Road, was exceptionally well cast. Kathy Bates is getting better with age. She delivered a quirky performance as the Wheeler's real estate agent (Helen Givings) that was outstanding. Her son, John Givings, visits from the insane asylum and injects the only true life into this film. John Givings (Michael Shannon) provided insight into some of the psychological issues in play, while creating exceptionally tense, interesting and comic situations that redeemed the writers just a bit. Shannon played an enjoyable nutcase in the film Bug, in a role that was not unlike the John Givings role in terms of intense insanity with an eerie quality of coherence. The supporting cast were a definite bright spot in this film.

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