20150619: Drama Review--Beyond

image courtesy of The Movie Database
  1. Fundamentals.
    1. Title: Beyond
    2. IMDb: Users rated this 3.8/10 (471 votes)
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:
      zero critics responded with ratings
      29% of viewers like it based on 103 ratings
      Critics Consensus: None yet.

    4. Status: Released
    5. Release date: 2014-04-25
    6. Production Companies: Attercorp Productions, Bigview Media
    7. Tagline: Survival is a Choice.

    8. Budget:  Budget estimate not available at review time.
    9. Revenue: Revenue figures not available at review time.
    10. Runtime: 89 minutes.
    11. Genres: Drama, Science Fiction, Romance

    12. Written and directed by: Joseph Baker, Tom Large

    13. Starring: Richard J. Danum as Cole, Gillian McGregor as Maya, Paul Brannigan as Michael, Kristian Hart as Keith Novac, Sid Phoenix as Prof. Rawlston Jennings, John Schwab as National Space Agency Spokesperson, George Dillon as Newsreader

    14. TMDb overview: A suspenseful sci-fi journey tracking the turbulent relationship of Cole and Maya as they struggle to survive in a world where the human population has been left decimated after an extra-terrestrial attack.

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. What is believed to be an asteroid approaches Earth.  There is a bit of imprecision.  The experts cannot decide whether it will impact our planet even when it is visible in the night sky.  As the object gets closer, other possibilities show themselves.

    2. The scene jumps back and forth from before the arrival, when the couple met, to the present, after the encounter, when most humans are dead.  The dialectic is awkward in execution and definitely off-putting.

    3. As the film rolls on, will we ever see the encounter?  Will we ever see the end of the couple's complaining about each other?  Will anyone survive this situation?

  3. Conclusions
    1. This is psychological drama, not science fiction.  All of the narrative is false, if one is to believe the ending.
    2. One line summary: I would not recommend this to a friend.
    3. Three of ten

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 5/10 Dark and gritty, to no particular point; a bit too much shaky cam.

    2. Sound: 5/10 I can hear the dialog.  The reason for some of the musical interludes escapes me.

    3. Acting: 4/10 For the majority of the film there are only two actors.  The pair seem listless and irritable, not under siege or in threat of their lives, not even hungry and dirty.

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The dialog is mostly boring, including the many tiffs; after hearing 'we need to talk' the first three times, the next dozen are irritating.  There are too many back and forth jumps in the timeline.  These two factors undermine any interest I had in the original concept.  In the post encounter/eradication era, there is not as much evidence of genocide as I would have expected.  Eliminating billions of humans would leave some traces, but many of the scenes are devoid of any signs of previous habitation.  The ending more or less throws away the rest of the film.  Another way of putting it is that the rest of the film provides next to no foundation for the ending.


20150610: Horror Review--Human Centipede 2

The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)
  1. Fundamentals.
    1. Title: The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence)
    2. IMDb:  3.9/10 from 22,780 viewers
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:
      30% on the tomatometer, from 77 critics
      23% from 10,651 viewer ratings
      Critics Consensus: The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence) attempts to weave in social commentary but as the movie wears on, it loses its ability to repulse and shock and ends up obnoxious and annoying.

    4. Status: Released
    5. Release date: 2011-10-07
    6. Production Companies: Six Entertainment
    7. Tagline: 100% medically INaccurate.

    8. Budget:  Budget estimate not available at review time.
    9. Revenue: (US market) 141,877 USD. (International) unknown at time of review.
    10. Runtime: 91 minutes.
    11. Genres: Crime, Drama, Horror

    12. Written and directed by: Tom Six.

    13. Starring: Laurence R. Harvey as Martin, Ashlynn Yennie as Miss Yennie, Dominic Borrelli as Paul, Georgia Goodrick as Valerie, Maddi Black as Candy, Kandace Caine as Karrie, Lucas Hansen as Ian, Lee Nicholas Harris as Dick, Dan Burman as Greg, Daniel Jude Gennis as Tim

    14. TMDb overview: Inspired by the fictional Dr. Heiter, disturbed loner Martin dreams of creating a 12-person centipede and sets out to realize his sick fantasy.

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. The protagonist Martin is quite short, morbidly obese, and seemingly without friends of any sort.  His job is as security at a dreary parking garage.  During his copious free time, he obsesses on the first Human Centipede film.  How is that for self-referential?

    2. Martin's goal is to create a centipede from 12 people rather than 3.  The first big block of the film is about Martin's acquisition of enough live bodies. 

    3. There is a parallel sideshow about his being sexually abused by his father, verbally abused by his mother (since father is in jail for the abuse), and his shrink's desire to bring him new abuse.  Sigh.  His mother tries to kill him herself.  She also sets the psychotic neighbor (biker with loud music, lives above them) on him; he beats the daylights out of Martin with boots and fists.  The list goes on well past these points.

    4. A bit over halfway through the film, Martin meets Miss Yennie (the actress, not the character) from the first film.  There is a clash of worlds.  She expects to discuss a role in a new film.  She gets to see Martin's handiwork instead.

    5. Does anyone get out alive?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: More gross than the original, but even less engrossing.
    2. Two of ten.  One blackhole for screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 3/10 It's in greyscale ('black and white') which I do not care for in the least.  I like a few (Inside Llewyn Davis (2013) and Manhattan (1979)) greyscale films, but they have to be otherwise exceptionally good.  This film does not qualify.

    2. Sound: 3/10 The background music supplies some creepiness, but not a lot.  The film is short on dialog (Martin speaks zero words during the movie), so sound is not a big contributor to quality.

    3. Acting: 4/10  As in the first film, the protagonist was fairly good, but the other cast members were either not put to good effect or just not strong in acting.

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 As a film about crushing the marginalised, this is fairly effective.  As an extreme horror film, this is a complete failure.  The endless use of the first film destroys any sense of engaging the viewers: it is all explicitly fakery.


20150609: Horror Review--Human Centipede 1

The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
  1. Fundamentals.
    1. Title: The Human Centipede (First Sequence)
    2. IMDb: 4.5/10 from 50,184 viewer ratings
    3. Rotten Tomatoes:
      49% (91 critics' ratings)
      26% liked it; 16,895 user ratings
      Critics Consensus: Grotesque, visceral, and (ahem) hard to swallow, this surgical horror does not quite earn its stripes because the gross-outs overwhelm and devalue everything else.

    4. Status: Released
    5. Release date: 2010-08-30
    6. Production Companies: Six Entertainment
    7. Tagline: Their flesh is his fantasy

    8. Budget:  2,011,799 USD
    9. Revenue: ticket sales, 181,467 USD (72%); international, 70,740 USD (28%)
    10. Runtime: 92 minutes.
    11. Genres: Horror

    12. Written and directed by: Tom Six.

    13. Starring: Dieter Laser as Dr. Heiter, Ashley C. Williams as Lindsay, Ashlynn Yennie as Jenny, Akihiro Kitamura as Katsuro, Andreas Leupold as Detective Kranz, Peter Blankenstein as Detective Voller

    14. TMDb overview: During a stopover in Germany in the middle of a carefree road trip through Europe, two American girls find themselves alone at night when their car breaks down in the woods. Searching for help at a nearby villa, they are wooed into the clutches of a deranged retired surgeon who explains his mad scientific vision to his captives' utter horror. They are to be the subjects of his sick lifetime fantasy: to be the first to connect people, one to the next, and in doing so bring to life "the human centipede."

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. Dr. Heiter, an older man who is thin as a rail, drugs and abducts a truck driver.  Two young women (Lindsay and Jenny) on a road trip through Germany get a flat near his house.  Unfortunately, they accept his offer to get out of the rain.  He drugs them as well.

    2. They awaken to find themselves secured (tied-up) in the surgeon's basement with the poor truck driver.  Dr Heiter furthers his explanation of his plans for them.  His renown more or less explains his artwork: he became famous by successfully separating conjoined twins.  After his retirement, he attempted an inverse experiment: joining three dogs together, end to end, so that they would have one digestive tract.  This failed, but Heiter wishes to try again, this time with humans. Sadly, Heiter did not investigate why the first experiment failed.

    3. Heiter's plans go forward with some bumps in the road.  For instance, he is rather cavalier about leaving sit the vehicles of the people he has kidnapped, all near his home.

    4. So, will Heiter succeed, or will the victims find a way to escape?

  3. Conclusions

    1. For longer, detailed descriptions of some plot problems with this script, try the user reviews on IMDb.  Several people were glad to list them out.

    2. One line summary: Gross but not engrossing.

    3. Two of ten; one black hole for screenplay.

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 8/10 Well done; this is a good-looking film.  Some of the blood effects are non-convincing, but at least they did not look like CGI.

    2. Sound: 8/10 The actors' words are easy enough to hear.  Of course,  many of them are in German and Japanese, so the subtitles were essential.  Mood music helped mildly.

    3. Acting: 2/10 Well, they tried.  However, I do not think that this film will help the careers of any of the cast. 

    4. Screenplay: 0/10 Fraught with logical problems and holes in the plot to the point where little if any of it made any sense.  Also, the subject matter was disgusting without being horrifying.  Suspense?  None.  Could one identify or empathise with any of the characters?  Not really; the whole mess was just too unbelievable.  


20150607: Horror Review--Taking of Deborah Logan

The Taking of Deborah Logan
  1. Fundamentals.
    1. Title: The Taking of Deborah Logan
    2. IMDb: Users rated this 5.6/10 (5,435 votes)
    3. Netflix: average of 3.5/5.0 (540,642 ratings)
    4. Rotten Tomatoes:
      critics rating not found number of reviews too low
      47% liked it from 850 viewers ratings
      Critics Consensus: none yet

    5. Status: Released
    6. Release date: 2014-10-21
    7. Production Companies: Millennium Films, Bad Hat Harry Productions
    8. Tagline: Evil lives within you

    9. Budget:  Budget estimate not available at review time.
    10. Revenue: Revenue figures not available at review time.
    11. Runtime: 90 minutes.
    12. Genres: Horror, Thriller

    13. Directed by: Adam Robitel; written by Adam Robitel, Gavin Heffernan

    14. Starring: Jill Larson as Deborah Logan, Anne Ramsay as Sarah Logan, Michelle Ang as Mia Medina, Ryan Cutrona as Harris, Brett Gentile as Gavin, Jeremy DeCarlos as Luis, Anne Bedian as Dr. Nazir, Tonya Bludsworth as Sheriff Linda Tweed

    15. TMDb overview: What starts as a poignant medical documentary about Deborah Logan's descent into Alzheimer's disease and her daughter's struggles as caregiver degenerates into a maddening portrayal of dementia at its most frightening, as hair-raising events begin to plague the family and crew and an unspeakable malevolence threatens to tear the very fabric of sanity from them all.

  2. Setup and Plot

    1. Mia, as part of her PhD thesis effort, arranges grant money to help Sarah Logan take care of her ailing mother Deborah.  The condition for Sarah to get the money (and save the farm) is that Mia has to complete a film.  The film is to document the sort of life that Deborah has because of her illness, and how Sarah is also affected.  Gavin and Luis are Mia's techies, who are put down immediately and repeatedly as sub-humans.  The representatives of medicine and law, Dr Nazir and Deputy Tweed, are both women.

    2. The early part of the movie includes results of medical testing of Deborah, and brief discussions of aspects of the disease that we think we understand.  Some of the visual presentation here is fine.

    3. Deborah's disease progresses more rapidly than expected.  The not so subtle horror cliches telegraph the general type of trouble to come.  Is there something other than physical disease at work here?

  3. Conclusions
    1. One line summary: Passable shaky cam possession story.
    2. Two stars of five

  4. Scores
    1. Cinematography: 3/10 Most of the movie is shot in found footage style or shaky cam.  The plus three is for the visuals during the early discussion of Alzheimer's as a disease.  Most of the film is found footage level badness.

    2. Sound: 5/10 Far better than the visuals.  On the other hand, I could have done without the use of overbearing noise to help produce jump scares.

    3. Acting: 5/10 Jill Larson was the undisputed centre of the film, and she was rather good.  Then there was the rest of the cast. 

    4. Screenplay: 2/10 The film was easy to disengage from, and the ending did not seem well connected to the rest of the film.