Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Unearthed Films digs up another fun "classic," Jean-Paul Ouellette's THE UNNAMABLE

Celebrating its 30th anniver-sary this year, the cult horror film THE UNNAMABLE -- which TrustMovies had heard of occasionally over the years but never actually seen until now -- turns out to be a bit of good, old-fashioned horror/ supernatural fun, for reasons that begin with its surprisingly well-imagined and executed "monster" and include some decent dialog, well-placed scares, and better-than-average performances from most of the cast members. (The musical score is far too over-the-top, however.)

As directed and adapted (from an H.P. Lovecraft short story) by Jean-Paul Ouellette (shown at right), the movie's main problem (today, at least) is that the tale it tells seems awfully been-there/done-that, so audiences -- cult audiences are likeliest to fall for this one -- will simply have to ignore or forgive these trespasses and stick with what makes the movie the most fun.

The late Mr. Lovecraft, whose work has been adapted or inspired into nearly 200 movies so far (according to the IMDB, at least), did have a knack for scares & fright.

He knew how to make use of "the unknown," while turning the "knowing" of it into something much worse than one's previous ignorance.

In The Unnamable, we begin maybe a couple of hundred years previous, in a large New England house in which a very naughty "being" is semi-imprisoned. When it misbehaves, carnage ensues.

Cut to present day (present day circa 1988, anyway), where a very attractive bunch of university students plus one dweeby nerd (yes, the usual suspects) are discussing the rumors surrounding that house and what they might mean.

Before you can say "pile on some more exposition," sure enough, one of the fellows (two photos above, at left) decides to explore the place. Yes, say goodbye to him. Then we meet a couple of hot and hunky frat boys (clearly quite expendable victims), who talk two female students -- one hot, the other sweet, and all four shown above -- into exploring the house with them as a ruse and a road to some nooky.

All this is followed by suspense, scares, and more gore and carnage. And a little near-sex. One of the girls, played by Laura Albert, (above), possesses one of  the nicest nipples I've seen in a long while, and her character also keeps her on pearls on during sex -- always a sign of class.

Our hero is played by an actor who went at the time by the name of Charles King (but later became Charles Klausmeyer), shown being menaced, above. He is adorable and naive and properly sexy, at least to the girl (Alexandra Durrell, below) who pines for him but whom he does not notice properly until the finale. Well, the course of true love never did run smooth, as Willie the Shake told us way back when.

Now, to get to the main reason for watching The Unnamable: that really scary, amazingly put-together monster, of whom, as befits all good horror movies, we view only snippets until fairly close to the finale, when she (yes!) appears in all her gory glory.

What a creation this one is, and despite all the ugliness, there is more than a hint of sexuality and carnal desire present here. One gets the sense that if only one of our hot and hunky young men had pulled a nice, big boner for our creature, he might have remained alive. Or at least enjoyed himself a bit before the end. Ah, well. Best not to dwell on what might have been.

From Unearthed Films and running 87 minutes, the movie hit Blu-ray and DVD last month via MVD Entertainment Group -- for purchase and (I would hope) rental. The disc is full of Bonus Features, as well (click here for details), so fans can really dig in.

Monday, November 12, 2018

From Italy, with love (and pain), Cesare Furesi's WHO WILL SAVE THE ROSES?

For a film as poetic, elliptical, elusive and often beautiful as the new Italian movie, WHO WILL SAVE THE ROSES? -- from co-writer and director Cesare Furesi -- the words that lead off this film are surprising: "Dedicated to that big piece of shit of my father." TrustMovies suspects that the English translation here may be a bit off, and that the second "of" in the dedication might better be replaced with a comma. Either way, it does seem clear that Signore Furesi (shown below) is not a huge fan of his dad.

What follows this somewhat jaw-dropping dedication, however, is such a surprising and lovely story that I suspect U.S. movie-goers who appreciate foreign films and oddball tales may take quite a liking to this sweet, sad and finally take-no-prisoners endeavor. Its finale is as uncompromising as any I've seen in a long while and goes up against such a long-held taboo -- especially in its native Italy -- that I imagine the audience reactions there were rather mixed.

The very leisurely beginning put us in touch with an elderly male couple -- the amazing and quite delightful Giulio (Carlo della Piani, below, right) and his bed-ridden partner Claudio (Lando Buzzanca, at left) -- and their unusual everyday life, in which the aged and himself infirm Giulio does everything from feeding and caring for his partner to mowing the lawn on their rather large-but-gone-to-seed estate.

Into their life returns Giulio's estranged daughter, Valeria (the beautiful Caterina Murino, below), who, though still angry at her father, proves to have remained very close to his partner, Claudio.

On the heels of her return comes that of her son (the men's grandson) Marco (Antonio Careddu, below), along with his girlfriend, with both of them soon involved in the lives of the elder set.

As for the usual back story, history and exposition that most family dramas would give us, Signore Furesi pretty much ignores all this. Oh, we get bits and pieces, but this hardly adds up to enough to deeply involve us. Instead, that involvement comes through the artful use of a kind of visual and verbal poetry that engages our mind and heart via the beauty of the well-chosen words and beautifully composed, often stunning images.

These includes sunsets (above and below) -- the film is set in Sardinia, which, as shown here looks to be a most beautiful and welcoming place -- which come into play not only for their beauty but as a "hook" for investors to help resuscitate an old family hotel (shades of the recent Mamma Mia! movie sequel). 

Gambling -- as art, vice and life -- also figures in the bizarre plot, as we learn that Giulio once allowed that very bad habit to intrude too heavily in his and his lover's life and finances. Now, here it comes again, this time as a possible savior, thanks to a wealthy old friend who owns the local casino (how good to see Philippe Leroy, shown below, left, in his senior years).

Finally, however, it is the performances of the two old men, especially that of the amazing Signore della Piane (above, right, and below), that brings the movie to life and holds it that way. Giulio's character -- forever dithering but helping, hoping against hope, using every means at his increasingly emptying disposal, love pouring out of every pore -- proves so memorable and amazing that you never doubt the unbreakable bond that exists between these two men.

There's a high-stakes poker game (below), the results of which question what is truth (in a manner than our current idiot President could never begin to appreciate or understand).  By the time we reach that finale, I suspect that anyone who has lived and loved hard enough and long enough will be able to fully savor the decision that has been reached.

I've often said that it is Italy that makes the best films about family. Here is yet another fine example. From Corallo Film, Who Will Save the Roses? arrived on VOD here in the USA this past Friday, November 9, and will have its American theatrical debut in the Los Angeles area at Laemmle's new Glendale theater this coming Friday, November 16.

The photo of the director, second from top, 
is by Camilla Morandi and comes 
courtesy of Getty Images.

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Lee Jong-suk’s debut film, THE NEGOTIATION, makes its home video debut this Tuesday

If TrustMovies goes too long without seeing a new film from South Korea, he begins to get a bit antsy for the smart pacing, classy look, action, suspense and envelope-pushing plot twists so many South Korean movies provide. If one of that country's films manages to makes its way over here, chances are it'll be worth a look, and so it is with THE NEGOTIATION, which marks the directorial debut of Lee Jong-Suk. This is a hostage/conspiracy/ corruption/betrayal thriller that, though packing in its share of silliness, also offers maybe ten times that in sheer fun.

Mr. Lee (shown at left), his writer Choi Sung-hyun and crew give us a very fast-moving tale that begins with a police officer (Son Ye-jin, at right below), who is just beginning her vacation, being called back into service due to a sudden hostage crisis. That one goes quickly south, but wait.

The higher-ups now request her services on a new and very different case -- one that keeps expanding and changing the more our heroine probes and learns.

The fact that we're talking about uber-dirty dealings involving the very highest reaches of government, military, police and (or course) the business community should come as no big surprise.

Yet how the filmmaking team puts it all together, unveiling one small surprise at a time, proves exemplary fun. And casting two of Korea's currently most popular performers in the leading roles is smart, too. As the chief villain facing off against our negotiating heroine, that very rangy, handsome actor Hyun Bin (below) is knock-your-socks-off sexy. His character is clever and funny, too, so the pas de deux that goes on between the two is generally quite delightful.

If the movie starts well enough, it grows even better as it continues, until we see a bunch of lying, devious and very powerful men aligned against one quiet but smart negotiator and another perhaps even smarter young man. If we've seen this sort of thing before (and, oh, have we!), the pacing, plotting and very classy filmmaking makes it seem new enough to pass muster as first-rate entertainment.

And if you find yourself asking, But how, against such huge odds, will justice ever triumph?, the movie has an oddball ace up that sleeve, too. No spoilers here, but I think the ending is just different enough that, though you might wish for something more, you'll be willing to buy into the if-only scenario that you're given.

Welcome comic relief is provided by Kim Sang-ho (above, left), while the rest of the cast is, as usual in Korean cinema, certainly up to snuff. But it is Ms Son and Mr. Hyun who carry the film, bringing with them surprising weight and not a little emotion, as the sweet/sour finale approaches.

From CJ Entertainment and running 113 minutes, The Negotiation makes its digital home video debut this coming Tuesday, November 13, on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play -- for both purchase and/or rental.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

A PRIVATE WAR: documentarian Matthew Heineman's first narrative feature opens

Those who saw Matthew Heineman's earlier documentaries, Cartel Land or City of Ghosts, well understand how effectively, near shockingly, he is able to place you, as well as the people whose stories he is telling, in the midst of horribly fraught situations in which the choices go from bad to beyond appalling.

Mr. Heineman, shown at left, has now directed his first narrative film -- A PRIVATE WAR -- an unusual bio-pic which brings us up close (and very personal) to a famous war correspondent, Marie Colvin, and the reporting she did from the middle of some of the most horrible wars of the end of this past century and those that occurred during the new one.

Using a documentary style, the filmmaker's achievement -- in addition to giving that wonderful actress Rosamund Pike (below) the best role she's had since Gone Girl (which she tears into so completely that, were there any justice to those generally frightful Academy Awards, she have another nomination sewn up) -- lies in placing us so firmly and relentlessly in the middle of the violence, carnage, desperation and despair Colvin is covering, that we feel we're as close to it all as movies can manage.

What's really interesting here is that Heineman, together with his cinematographer (Robert Richardson) and editor (Nick Fenton) instead of offering up lots of visual razzmatazz, goes more for precision and specific detail, as well for logistics and a sharp sense of space and place.

The director also concentrates as much on the results of the violence as on the violence itself -- showing us grieving women, parents who've lost their children, and those still in the midst of trying to save and/or somehow protect their offspring under the most difficult of circumstances.

All this works to demonstrate journalist Colvin's real mission: to show us the rotten results of war rather than glamorizing its excitement and violence, and not coincidentally, pointing the finger at heartless shitheel dictators like Syria's Assad, who would, has and will continue to sacrifice his entire nation's population in his bid to retain power.

The movie begins in the Syrian city of Homs, which would prove to be Ms Colvin's final assignment, then goes back to the late 1990s in Sri Lanka (three photos above), making its way via conflict after conflict until it again returns to Homs.

By this time, we've ascertained quite well who this unusual woman is, what she does, and why she must do it. (And, yes, you may decide that, buried within her along with all else, is something of a death wish.)  Ms Pike brings her to life in all her strength, sadness and oddball beauty (even with that eye patch she must use after Sri Lanka). We even get a good dose of this woman's alcohol addiction, too.

Heineman and his writer Arash Amel (whose screenplay is based on a magazine article by Marie Brenner) weave in Colvin's history, family background, sexual needs and lots more (some humor, too), doing this in short, swift scenes that help make her character as full-bodied as we could want, given the movie's 106-minute time frame.

In the supporting cast are some excellent actors, including Jamie Dornan (above, as the photographer she meets early on and continues to work with), Stanley Tucci (below, left, as her companion used as much for his intelligence as for his sexual expertise) and especially the wonderful Tom Hollander (two photos up) as her newspaper editor: kindly, smart, a little bit craven but mostly frightened for his intrepid reporter.

Colvin's story is a vital and important one, especially now, as so much that so many of us hold dear seems to be spinning out of control. I hope that audiences will rise to the occasion and go see this movie so that Academy members can't/won't simply pass it by.

From Aviron Pictures, A Private War opened last week on the coasts and expands this week to additional cities and venues, including here in South Florida  Wherever you reside, to find the theaters nearest you, simply click here, and then click on GET TICKETS in the task bar atop the screen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Elizabeth Chomko's family/dementia drama, WHAT THEY HAD, finally opens in South Florida

The critical verdict on WHAT THEY HAD, the new film (her first) written and directed by actress Elizabeth Chomko, seems to be that it is very well-acted (it is indeed) but otherwise fairly forgettable. Some critics have also declared that it is all about an older woman, Ruth (played by Blythe Danner), descending into dementia. Wrong. The character is clearly already demented, even as the film begins. The movie's real theme is how the family members surrounding Ruth deal with her dilemma, as well as why they choose to do this. Or not.

All this makes the movie more complicated than you might initially expect, and Ms Chomko (pictured at left) provides enough decent dialog and varied situations to give her characters the opportunity to unveil themselves in relatively believable fashion, even as we audience members begin to understand them more fully.

Chomko's ace-in-the-hole is her very smartly chosen cast, each one of whom turns in an excellent performance. As the older generation, Ms Danner (below, left) and Robert Forster (below, right) as her husband, Burt, offer up some beautifully layered work: she moving easily between a demented state and some brief times that approach normalcy, he as the loving but hugely stubborn caretaker who refuses to admit the need for further help.

The younger generations are shown via Ruth's daughter (Hillary Swank, below, left) and grand-daughter (Taissa Farmiga, below, right), both of whom have their own rather typical but also highly detailed and believable way of dealing with the situation.

Best of all perhaps is that terrific actor Michael Shannon (shown below, second from left), playing Ruth's and Burt's son, Nick, who grows increasingly freaked out by the nighttime wanderings of his mother, particularly after she, in one of her "elsewhere" moments, has made a sexual advance toward him.

During the course of this 101-minute movie, the family's history spills slowly out, with perhaps a little too much exposition, though not a deal-breaking amount, and some welcome humor generated along the way. Parents and children have their defining moments and a certain amount of "closure" is reached. What They Had may not be groundbreaking in any way, but the situation it deals with head-on is one that many of us will have to face -- first as caretaker and finally, perhaps, as patient. Ms Chomko's film proves a decent addition to the growing sub-genre of aging-parent-with-Alzheimer's.

From Bleecker Street, the movie -- after opening last month in major cities -- hits South Florida this Friday, November 9. Look for it in the Miami area at MDC's Tower Theater, in Boca Raton at the Living Room Theater, and at the Movies of Delray and the Movies of Lake Worth.  Wherever you live around the country, to find the theaters nearest you, simply click here -- and scroll down.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Coming of age in the most unusual of ways in Steve McLean's POSTCARDS FROM LONDON

I don't recall ever seeing Steve McLean's earlier film, Postcards from America, but it has been 24 years between that one and his latest work, POSTCARDS FROM LONDON.

The latter is an unusual movie indeed: heavily stylized but never abstruse, with content that tracks the oddball coming-of-age of the film's hero, Jim, who is itching to leave his suburban British home and make his way in the world via the bohemian haunts of Soho.

How he does this, who he meets, and the way in which fine art figures into the equation -- in so many ways --makes for a movie that does not compare with much else that TrustMovies has so far seen.

Mr. McLean, shown at right, clearly means his movie to be highly visual and lots of fun to look at. He has succeeded mightily at this, from his palette of day-glo, neon colors to his cast of handsome men, both young and older, and cinematography (by Annika Summerson) that has a consistent eye for composition, and editing (Stephen Boucher) that crisply and smartly weaves these 90 minutes into a generally enthralling whole.

As the movie's hero, British actor Harris Dickinson (below, of Beach Rats) proves himself capable of physically and facially carrying the load of oh-my-god-isn't-he-beautiful! baggage that the screenplay (also by McLean) has inflicted upon him.

While this might be difficult to live up to, Dickinson, via his innate liveliness and enthusiasm, not to mention his face (above) and body (below), easily carries it off. I do wonder why, since much is made during a photo shoot, of our hero's male endowment, McLean refuses to give us the full-frontal shot that seems both welcome and necessary (even if a body double were required here). It is not as though we're currently living in censorious times (the movie is being released un-rated, in any case).

The major part that art plays within the whole is also worth contemplating.

The movie opens with our boy at a London museum, where the sudden sight of a beautiful Titian painting makes him woozy-unto-fainting.

Yes, as we later learn, this is the famous Stendhal Syndrome, which figures into things more heavily as the film moves along and is used in a particularly clever manner (certainly better than Dario Argento managed it in his mostly silly, eponymously-named mystery movie).

We get some references to Francis Bacon but mostly we hear about (and even see) Caravaggio, during the fantasies that Jim experiences whilst under the influence.

The quartet of upscale rent boys (above) with whom Jim falls in are brought to pleasing life, as are the older clients Jim finds himself servicing -- in a decidedly unusual manner. Art comes into even this quite interestingly, too.

In all, Postcards from London proves a very pretty, charming and entertaining look at young man's unusual coming of age. It's not what you would call deep or particularly moving in any manner. Yet it offers up a very welcome look at gay life (that is not time period-specific), sexuality and the uses of art -- without guilt or shame.

From Strand Releasing, after a nice run of various GLBT film festivals, the film opens theatrically in New York City at the Quad Cinema this coming Friday, November 9, and it will hit Los Angeles on Friday, November 23, at Laemmle's Music Hall 3. I don't find other cities on the agenda as yet (click here, and then click on Screenings halfway down the screen, for the latest playdates/venues), but there will certainly be a DVD and/or digital streaming available eventually.