Sunday, November 6, 2011

Triple Review: Ghosts, Antonio Banderas, and the third Olsen sister.

To the one or two people who are disappointed, I'm very sorry that I gave up on my "Month of Terror."  It got to a point where I ran out of time to make them and I'd rather have given up than to have posted rushed, horribly written garbage.  I've been pretty busy with school and whatnot, so I may not write a full review for every movie I see in theaters anymore either...sometimes I'll do quick reviews, like now, just to get my thoughts out there for those interested.

Paranormal Activity 3:

By this point in the game, I think you know whether or not this series is for you.  For fans of the first two entries, Paranormal Activity 3 should not disappoint.  It's just as scary and benefits from some new sparks of creativity brought to you by Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost, directors of Catfish, one of my favorite movies of last year.  The same sort of story takes place here, with the whole camera-catching-ghosts-while-you-sleep thing being the crux of the scares.  The film is a prequel to the other two movies and basically shows the "beginning" of the haunts from the other films when the two main sisters were little (in those movies they said they had "blocked memories" or something like that from their childhood).

Since this takes place in the 80's, I had hoped that that era's technology would've played a bigger role in the film, but it's really the same kind of stuff.  However, there was one camera set-up that was really ingenious; although the main guy is a videographer for weddings, he still doesn't have fancy pantsy security equipment so he rigs up an oscillating fan with a video camera and can therefore record from the living room to the kitchen.  What's great about this from a cinematic standpoint is that the appliance moves from side-to-side; it's what we don't see on the other "half" of the frame that makes our palms sweaty.  I also really loved the "Bloody Mary" scene, which cleverly alters from the scene seen in the trailer.  Although we don't get too much more of the backstory of the characters, it's just as fun and exciting as the other films, although perhaps a tad less at this point only because I feel as though the series is starting to re-tread old ground.  A fourth film is bound to be made; let's hope that it manages to keep the mythology going without repeating the past. Besides those gripes, Paranormal Activity 3 is a real slow burn and it's refreshing to see a horror movie that doesn't rely solely on randomly placed jump scares.

Rating: B

The Skin I Live In:

The popular Spanish melodramatic director Pedro Almodovar's latest project, The Skin I Live In, is an amazing, original film.  Antonio Banderas stars as a surgeon who, against the morale and law of his practice, is using pig cells to revive the skin of burn victims.  His latest subject, played by Elena Anaya (who's possibly one of the most perfectly formed and attractive women I've ever seen anywhere), is kept locked in a room in his estate, overlooked by himself and his servant played by Marisa Paredes.  To say any more might ruin this film, and there are some great twists that happen early on.  Watching this reminded me of the first time I saw Pulp Fiction - not in its content or style (although this film does ingeniously toy with jumps in time) - just in that while watching it I felt I was seeing something unlike anything I've seen before.  There are some filmic influences of course, but the overall picture is a truly unique experience.  It's intense, it's complex, it's emotional, and it will even make you wince.  Don't know what else to say...just see it!

Rating: A

Martha Marcy May Marlene:

Try saying that ten times fast.  To be honest, I had to recite the title a few times beforehand just so I could purchase a ticket without sounding like an asshole.  Going into this movie I really knew nothing about it besides that it got some buzz from Sundance and that movie folks on the Internet that I respect gave it high praise.  The film follows Martha (played by Elizabeth Olsen, the Olsen twins' younger sister) - a young woman who manages to escape from a cult in the Catskills and calls up her older sister to try and escape her past.  Unfortunately this cult, whose leader Patrick (played by the emaciated-looking John Hawkes from Winter's Bone), has brainwashed her to a point where she can't function outside of her "family" anymore.

On a technical scale this movie was handled really well.  The cinematography told so much through so little, making it easy to crawl inside Martha's psyche.  Often the amount of time objects take to come in and out of focus deviates from the norm, re-creating the very hazy mindset of her mind. The editing is also very subtle but powerful, linking the two sections of the film - that of Martha's time in the cult and that of her holding up at her sister's summer house - seamlessly and gracefully.  For instance, we'll see Martha stirring a glass of water in the present and then we drift into the past were she is also stirring a drink (I don't want to give anything away, but these actions have weight to them and have more meaning than the simple actions I'm describing).  I have a feeling that every shot in this film was heavily pre-planned and what the final product is did not come through on accident.

If I have any complaints it's that the film doesn't really head anywhere.  The premise is very intriguing and specific scenes are incredibly absorbing, but there's never any real "climax" or major confrontation.  With a story like this I would've expected something "big" to happen, but it's simply a dark, quiet, character piece.  Elizabeth Olsen is a captivating lead, and John Hawkes is equally interesting.  Although it's hard to imagine that a person of some intelligence could end up "falling" for this cult, through their performances and the supporting cast it becomes easier to see.  Martha Marcy May Marlene is a very interesting movie that may not "go" anywhere and has a title that's hard to remember, but it's worth a watch if anything just to see a possible star in the making!

Rating: B+
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