Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Mama (2013)

The chameleonic Jessica Chastain. Almost as hot as Gemma Arterton, I'd say.

The Modigliani behind Mama?
At a glance:
It's only by pure happenstance and not my licentious fascination with Jessica Chastain since The Help (2011) that the first two movies I've paid to watch in cinemas this year both star her - Kathryn Bigelow's laborious Zero Dark Thirty (2013) and the del Toro-championed Mama (2013). Yes, I didn't care for the overlong, over-informative trailer (why are they like this nowadays!) but was in the mood for somethin that will do what it says on the tin. Muschietti siblings Andrés and Barbara return to expand on their 2008 short film of the same name (unless you count the accent in Mamá), the spooky three-minute success that got this picture made. The final product is this polished Spanish-Canadian effort - one of the better mainstream supernatural horror movies on wide release in recent memory. It's about two sisters who are rescued from a life of cherry-chompin in the woods by their uncle but a malevolent spirit follows them home. You get a little 19th century backstory thrown in. Strange to find Chastain in the lightweights here. Might've been a moodier, less distractin picture if it were a more obscure actress playin her part as the sympathetic rocker chick aunt figure, innit?
Bad news on the doorstep:
While the strength here is definitely the teasin delay in finally seein the offendin titular mother, I'm still not a fan of these digitalised spooks. However we ought to judge the player based on where he plays. For a movie with so much important CG, it is great CG; and even the protracted and over-exposed CG finale does not undo the tense, solid plottin throughout. That's what you call a sold audience.
Everyone overreacts to moths in horror movies. Why?
Perennial wonderment:
Could've done without the overused contorted human crawl, though. How many times do we have to see that spider shyte? Bleugh. By the way, Mama over-performed in its openin weekend and in just three days earned more than producer Guillermo del Toro's last movie Don't Be Afraid Of The Dark in its entire run. Poor Arnie died takin his last stand, you can read. Box Office Mojo reported: "Aside from the advantages inherent to the supernatural horror genre, Mama also benefited from a strong marketing effort and a PG-13 rating that managed to attract younger females in strong numbers: Mama's audience was 61% female and 63% under the age of 25. They awarded it a 'B-' CinemaScore, which is slightly above-average for a horror movie."
Most memorable line:
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau
Watch out for:
Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse as the impoverished, feral sisters. Well coached and well done. The male lead, Danish 'Aragorn' Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, has left his biggest callin card for Hollywood, I hope, with his largest part to date. Maybe he'll get to play a romantic lead in a Hollywood rom-com some day? Saw him most recently in the superb Norwegian crime-caper Headhunters (2011).
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Nothin terribly original here but the production design of the ghoul is effective and its measured narrative enable us to enjoy the old school jumps instead of deridin them. Apparently in a video interview, the Muschiettis revealed that the eventual Mama Blu-ray could have up to 40 minutes of deleted scenes. I'd like to see that; and judgin from the box office collections and the way the movie ends, will wait for a sequel.★★★1/2
Bonus material:

Friday, 18 January 2013

Heaven And Hell (2012) @ วงจรปิด

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"Damn. I forgot the safe word."

At a glance:
If it ain't found footage or mobile phone recordings, it's CCTV. In the hands of the Thai, they'll make it an omnibus horror, as usual. Yuthlert Sippapak's Heaven And Hell (2012) a.k.a. วงจรปิด is a disjointed effort of three vignettes, the last two sittin better together than with the first (directed by his longtime cinematographer Tiwa Moeithaisong). It opens with Tiwa's black-and-white story - Ghost Legacy, about a pair of twins who inherit a haunted mansion from their dead grandfather. Next, we have Heaven 11, a slightly confusin episode about creepy teen love that culminates in a 24-hour convenience store, at the expense of two frightened CCTV technicians. The last, Hell No. 8, brings back this duo and puts them in a haunted apartment's lift where they try to fix the CCTV while chattin up two chicks.
Bad news on the doorstep:
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These are the requisite tattoos to become a CCTV technician.
The middle bit, easily the strongest, could've been expanded to make an entire movie, instead of this dissonant mess. The decision to open with the weakest bit must be criticised, as I suspect many won't last the humourless silent movie treatment, with title cards to boot. It's also unfortunate that the last third descends into a full-on horror-comedy without much tension. Cheap-lookin ghosts are part and parcel of Thai movies within this range but it could really have done so much better with just a little structural tweak.
"Please. I need this stool to hang myself."
Perenial wonderment:
Does anyone know where I can get Thai box office results in English? Do drop me a line.  Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
Prolific Thai movie critic Wise Kwai sees positives: "As scattershot Heaven and Hell is in terms of style and genre, there's an overarching theme of feminism, with strong female roles in Yuthlert's segments – the girl ghosts get their revenge." I'm less enthusiastic. This ain't 4bia (2008) or Phobia 2 (2009). Jog on.★★
Bonus material:

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Thursday, 17 January 2013

Hold Your Breath (2012)

Automobile-assisted electrocution. All because she didn't hold her breath.

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Katrina Bowden reads the awful script...
but decides to star in it anyway.
At a glance:
This sorry excuse for a movie is right down your alley if you're the kind of C-grade cineaste who knows mockbuster maestros The AsylumJared Cohn's frivolous Hold Your Breath (2012) has a plot thinner than the DVD plastic it comes in, so if you keep your expectations low, nobody will get hurt. A group of hedonistic twentysomethings go on road trip but when they drive past a cemetery, they neglect to heed the titular old wives tale, as insisted by Katrina Bowden's character i.e. HOLD YOUR BREATH! Some old wife somewhere should start the rumour that your face will fall off if you watch an Asylum movie for more than 10 minutes. Anyway, that's when a malevolent spirit from the past (an executed convict) possesses one of them and we get some gory party pieces before a know-it-all cryptkeeper enters the proceedings to try and save the lot. Yawn.
Bad news on the doorstep:
They could've kept the laughable CG until the later half of the show, so as not to burst the bubble so soon. As it stands, we get a one-sentence story, punctuated by spaghetti straps and the inexplicable scenes of repeated mutilation to the human eye.
"Nooooooooooooooo.... my career!!!"
Watch out for:
Erin Marie Hogan as Natasha stands out, since she gets a sex scene and when she's not busy humpin the lead actor. 30 Rock's Katrina Bowden is given all the important lines that the other actresses probably couldn't handle, but she ends up doin little else. This blonde lass sure has come a long way since I first saw her as sweet Miss Tasty in Sex Drive (2008). Shame she gets to keep her kit on while the other two female actresses don't!
Amacam joker, berapa bintang lu mau kasi?
I don't even know why I put this up. Go check out the official website and judge for yourself. I do have some nude stills of the sex scenes after the page break, if you're interested. Alternatively, you can read this hilarious review by the unforgivin English, right here.

Bonus material: