Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Tuesday's Overlooked Films And/Or Other A/V: new links and more

As often with the Overlooked, some reviews (other than my own!) might well be delayed and appear here (or their links might) over the course of the day; thanks to all the contributors and to you readers. As always, if I've missed your review or someone else's please let me know in comments. Thanks again.

Bill Crider: Capricorn One [trailer]

Brent McKee: Emmy polling

Brian Arnold: World War II: When Lions Roared

Chuck Esola: Popatopolis

Ed Gorman: Top 10 Lists from famous film directors; James Garner's autobiography

Elizabeth Foxwell: The Rivals of Sherlock Holmes

Evan Lewis: Adventures of Captain Africa...absolutely *not* The Phantom, mind you, syndicate lawyers...

Francis M. Nevins: Boston Blackie (1951-53 television)

George Kelley: Predators (2010)

Iba Dawson: Strictly Ballroom

Ivan G. Shreve, Jr.: Tarzan's New York Adventure

Jackie Kashian: "Street Preacher"

James Reasoner: The Jimmy Dean Show with Rowlf the Dawg, the Muppet

Jeff Flugel: The Outfit

Jerry House: Crimes at the Dark House; Lovecraftian films

John Charles: Buck Rogers (1939 serial)

Patti Abbott: My World and Welcome to It

Prashant Trikannad: quoting Hitchcock; Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Randy Johnson: The Green Promise

Rod Lott: Ricco the Mean Machine (aka The Mean Machine)

Ron Scheer: Dude Cowboy

Scott Cupp: Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter

Sergio Angelini: Vertigo and The 2012 Sight & Sound critics poll

Stacia Jones: The Boatniks

Stephen Gallagher: Sick City Talks

Steve Lewis: Secret Agent of Japan

Todd Mason: Bergman Island; The Rock Bottom Remainders; Pete Seeger

Walter Albert: The Killing

Yvette Banek: Land of the Pharaohs

Zybahn: Night Gallery: "The Phantom Farmhouse"/"Silent Snow, Secret Snow"

From the Horror List at Indiana University this week:

*Pearce Duncan: V/H/S
I saw the recent "found footage" horror anthology V/H/S last night. It was rather hit & miss, and several segments had some issues with their portrayal of women, but the best parts were pretty good.

It features a framing sequence in which a bunch of complete munters break into a house looking for a mysterious VHS tape that someone is willing to pay a lot of money for. They can't figure out which tape it is, so they watch a bunch of them, which are presented as individual stories.

I really hated the framing sequence, which featured hateable jerks doing horrible things (sexual assault, vandalism) just for kicks and then getting involved in a caper that makes no sense before a nonsensical, though predictable, ending. Fortunately, none of the other segments were quite so bad.

The best story was the very last one (a haunted house story set on Hallowe'en), which managed a nice funhouse atmosphere and moved like a rocket. One story took place over multiple Skype sessions (no explanation as to why this was recorded onto a VHS tape) but ruined a great set-up with a horrible ending. The slasher movie parody had some good laughs, great use of fast-forward, and a creepy way of presenting the Jason-esque killer.

Ti West's segment, about a couple recording their holiday, had a lot of great creepy moments but blew the pacing of its pay-off.

The most problematic segment was the first one, about a bunch of sexist jocks looking to secretly film a sex tape using spy glasses. The director of this segment was present, and rather lamely responded to accusations of misogyny by saying that it was all about the male gaze and that it illustrated a part of the male psyche that we prefer to keep hidden.

I'm neither particularly positive or negative about the "found footage" subgenre, but I have to say that by the end of this movie I really wanted to see something where a camera sits still for at least a couple of seconds.

So, yeah. It could have used a female writer and/or director in there somewhere (women do write and direct low-budget horror movies, after all) or at least a female character of any substance. But if you can overlook the misogyny of the worst segments, the best ones make it worthwhile. Or you could just wait for DVD (VHS being unlikely at this point) and chapter-skip to the good parts!

(Anything you heard about people fainting or puking at Sundance was just hype.)

*"George Kaplin": Absentia
I recently saw a terrific little indie-horror on Netflix streaming: Absentia. This quiet, naturalistic thriller follows a woman, Tricia, whose husband mysteriously disappeared seven years ago. As her wayward sister, Callie, comes to stay with her, Tricia is in the process of having her husband declared "dead in absentia". But soon questions begin to arise that suggest his fate may be ties to other local disappearances, and there may be something mysterious about the pedestrian underpass near her house...

This is a really smart and effective little film. It's got a good script, solid performances, and tons of edgy atmosphere layered onto it. Clearly very low-budget, it makes excellent use of its resources by focusing on just a few locations, compelling characters, simple but subjective imagery, and a few great twists. There are some effects, but they're kept simple and suggestive. Great, slowly building tension, but the weight is really on the emotional reality of the situation, and the creeping fear of all that we can never know.

Anybody else checked out this little gem?

["George Kaplin" might just be the writer of the better and latter of the short radio plays audible at this link, "The Change in Bucket County"]

Todd Mason: Bergman Island, the Rock Bottom Remainders, and Pete Seeger

Bergman Island is a series of interviews of Ingmar Bergman, in and around his residence on Fårö Island, conducted by Marie Nyreröd, and it's pretty remarkably engaging. It helps that I'm a great admirer of his films, and enjoy the best of them immensely (some are much better than others, of course...some of his best works are ignored here altogether, while his slight early film Monika aka Summer with Monika gets a passing mention, mostly because it is an early film). He notes that he loves working on stage, in film and on television almost equally (stage has a slight edge), and confesses ruefully to being an irresponsible absentee father and someone who left puberty behind in his late 40s. Interspersed are clips from his work in all the relevant media, and earlier interviews, alone and with his colleagues, but mostly it's a well-edited and -paced set of memoirs and philosophical musings from Bergman, who can spin a lengthy interesting, or fascinating, answer to the questions Nyreröd poses to him. Two excerpts below (in slightly blurry focus):

The playful wit at work, in clips from films going back to Smiles of a Summer's Night and up to the conversations in progress, bely the oddly grim reputation he unjustly earned. But I hope you knew that already...

Meanwhile, after taking in the Bergman interview, what should be presented but CBS's The Late Late Show featuring as guests Stephen King, Dave Barry and the other Rock Bottom Remainders, recording some weeks in advance their intended last television appearance, in the wake of the death of band organizer Kathi Kamen Goldmark. King and Barry gave mostly amiable interviews (King these days looks ever more like a "Moebius" drawing, something I'm sure I'm not the first to note), although Barry seemed to put host Craig Ferguson off briefly. But the last performance the Remainders meant to record (we'll see) was the big event of the evening, with a large slice of the usual suspects on hand (Ferguson had subbed on drums at least once for the band). Below, the song broadcast:

And just after that, an interview and performance on the same-day repeat of The Colbert Report; Seeger's voice takes a lot of warming up to approach melody these days, but even given arthritis and the other palsies of advanced age, his banjo-picking is still pretty good, if (oddly enough) not quite up to what he was capable of...yes...six and a half decades ago, as the band the Weavers were just beginning to achieve great commercial success, after Seeger's work with the Almanac Singers (also including Woody Guthrie and other shapers of folk music in the last century). Seeger is accustomed to having his own audiences, who might know some of his songs or at least have the sense of how to sing along with him onstage, something the Colbert Report audience seemed a bit flummoxed by (it would've been good for the show to put up a large lyrics screen of some sort...karaoke might be a more familiar concept to the attending), but some, at least, joined in by the end.

There are worse ways to spend the last hours, and just after, of one's birthday. (Much more satisfying than catching, at the beginning of my birthday, the Killing Bin Laden episode of the HBO series The Newsroom, where it doesn't occur to anyone in a studio/office-full of theoretically sophisticated journalists and researchers, characters who instead act even more like superannuated adolescents than their actual models do, that perhaps capturing and trying the thug under the rule of law might've been better than simply killing him on sight...but gosh the episode took an opportunity to be maudlin about airline staff, as if they and they particularly suffered as a result of 11 September's terrorism...)


Prashant C. Trikannad said...

Todd, thanks for the Hitchcock entry but I should have my Overlooked Films post ready soon. Hard day travelling to and from work.

Yvette said...

I'm putting the finishing touches on mine, Todd. Stay tuned. :)

Scott Cupp said...

Todd, my review of CAPTAIN KRONOS, VAMPIRE HUNTER is up

Todd Mason said...

Got 'em, folks, thanks...except for your new one, Prashant, and I will grab that up when posted.