Category Archives: reviews

scion – short film

Earlier this year I was a screener for the Santa Cruz Film Festival. I had to watch a truckload of crap… most of it was crap, frankly. Being a screener (or a screenplay reader) is a real eye opener, really… because most of it is crap. But I found a few gems, and I thought I’d get around to sharing them with you. Not all of them made it into the fest (not for lack of quality or vision, more for programming reasons) but I still think you should know about these films.

Scion_artSCION
Written and Directed by Michael Rosetti

Deep in an abandoned factory lives Scion; lonely and crippled, he hobbles along, trying to create a companion.  When a mysterious man stumbles into the factory Scion eagerly follows him and the two develop an odd relationship, ultimately changing Scion’s insulated existence forever. Creation and destruction are bound together in a story of the search for meaning and existence.

I was stunned by Scion. At only 12 minutes long, and with only a single line of dialogue, Scion is a beautiful movie with delicate performances. Shot on 35mm by Greg Mitnick, Scion’s urban grunge post-apocalyptic setting is filmed with the light and composition of a Vermeer.

In fact, my recommendation to the programming committee went something like this: Continue reading

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enigma – epic sci fi on a budget

EnigmaPosterIf you read my first post on Enigma, you know that I was impressed by the trailer and excerpts, but had two primary issues: I was unimpressed with the animated googly-eyed monkey (put me into painful Lost In Space flashbacks), and I wasn’t sure why one would spend 40K on making something too long for a short but too short to distribute as a feature. Otherwise, I thought the production looked solid and bigger than its budget.

Director/Producer/Editor Jason Shumway was kind enough to drop by and personally defend the googly-eyed-monkey. Continue reading

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Boxing Helena

Finally just watched this film, as I’m working on a script that (I was told) might bear some resemblance to it (not this one).

I’m happy to say that it doesn’t.

What a terrible film, in so many ways. I don’t like to go on and on, but just truly dreadful writing, the performances are ham-fisted (but perhaps only because the players had so little to work with), the editing is clumsy.

A representative example: The guy is obsessed with the girl. He is excruciatingly boring to her. The girl has left her address book at the guy’s house. The guy is driving her to his house so she can retrieve the book. The two pull into the driveway. We must show that the drive has been miserable for the girl, and heaven for the guy. So the guy says:

Here we are at the house, Helena. I’m so glad I got to tell you that story… in such depth and detail. I’m really sorry, Helena. We’ll find your book.

Really. He really says that. Oh my God.*

There is simply no trust that the audience will give enough of a shit to even remember from moment to moment what is going on in the story, or who these people even are. So her name (Helena) is repeated every few seconds; we are told that we are arriving at the house (even though we are seeing a shot of them pulling up to the house); rather than hear the tail end of the story and trust her expression, he exposes to us that he told a long story (and in excruciating detail); and then they remind us why we’re at the house at all (to find the book). It’s a fucking radio play for alzheimer’s patients.

It is a good example, I suppose, of what was probably a terrific idea on paper (and a terrific logline – “An obsessed surgeon kidnaps the woman of his dreams, removes her arms and legs, and makes her his prize possession”), and could have been a terrifically twisted film, but clearly needed a rewrite. Someone needed to say “Hey, this has promise. The story’s all there. Let’s get someone in to polish the dialogue so the characters don’t play like shallow schoolchildren and then let’s make us a movie!”

But alas.

Oh well. Now I’ve checked it off my to-do list.**

*Yes. Verbatim. Can you believe it?
**Late I know. The film’s been out a long time, and already been universally panned. This isn’t news. It’s just news to me.
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Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Finally saw this movie… it’s one of those that’s such a “classic” and “groundbreaking” film that filmies love to talk about (and some growed up mens still say scares them), figured I’d better see it.

I won’t spend a lot of time talking about it.

Lame.

Sorry. Poorly written, acted and directed. Yes, I get it, it created the genre. Yes, I get it, it had a black lead who didn’t traffic in his blackness. Yes, I get it, the flesh eating zombies were super graphic for their time.

It also had about four lines of dialogue simply repeated throughout the second act: “We should stay downstairs, we’ll be safer.” “We should stay upstairs, we’ll be safer.” “Why do you get to hold the gun?” “Shut up and help.”

And the lead (the black guy) pretty much just kills the whiny pudgy guy for no reason (other than he was just crazy irritating).

But mostly, and it bears repeating here, badly written, acted and directed. And really, since we’re talking about movies, not about good intentions or accidental historical being-in-the-right-place-ness, those are the things a “movie” needs to do right to be simply “competent,” and needs to do expertly and artistically to be “great”.

So yeah. Whatever. I laughed, and barely made it through. I’m glad it opened doors in a variety of ways, but let’s be honest. It’s not a good movie.

It’s not.

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Last House On The Left (1972)

Just like with Night Of The Living Dead, I felt I had to see Last House cuz it gets such rave reviews from horror fans as an important genre film.

Just like with Night Of The Living Dead, I won’t spend too much time on it. In fact, I’ll spend less.

Lame.

Sorry. Yeah, I know, it broke new ground and opened creative doors yadda yadda yadda.

What a waste of time. No story. Badly directed. Laughable acting. God, was it edited by Helen Keller? It’s billed as the “story of what happens to bad guys when the victim’s parents trap them in their house” (to paraphrase), but that part comes in the last four or five minutes, after essentially watching a snuff film.

Whatever. Blegh. There’s 72 minutes that felt like 4 hours of my life that I’ll never get back.

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