Movie Review: Into the Storm


It baffles me how documenting a dangerous event is sometimes placed higher than self-preservation. I don’t care how wicked that storm looks or how many hits you’ll get, save yourself!

In the span of a day, one town gets hit with several tornadoes.

So, this is supposed to be a found footage movie, complete with random filming, shaky camerawork, and supposedly real people in real events. Problem is, some of the shots should not exist because there is no camera. I’m not kidding. Now, one could argue that some were provided by a news helicopter but there’s no indication.

Unlike The Blair Witch Project or Cloverfield, there’s nondiegetic music during the film. As some of the characters prepare to drown in the abandoned paper mill, somber music comes in out of nowhere. I’m sorry, but last I checked, I didn’t hear random music flow into whatever room I was in during an intense moment. It goes against the conventions of found footage in a way that detracts from the overall piece.

“But Thomas,” you may ask, “isn’t found footage as a whole implausible in that someone decided it was a good idea to release a film where bad stuff happens to real people?” Yes, but that’s not the point. Once you accept the premise that this “actually happened”, you just go along for the ride and might get sucked into the film.

In terms of plot, what little there is for surviving real weather, I questioned the graduation ceremony as a whole. While it was planned in advance, why did they not have a back-up location in case something like this happened? Better yet, why didn’t they choose to be indoors in the first place when the weather report stated that there’d be storms rolling through at the same time as the ceremony?

The lighting was far too dark for where I saw this film, a drive-in. Some of the colors projected on the screen matched the sky behind it, with little contrast. Ideally, this probably wasn’t the right way to see it, whatever that is. True, this is supposed to be all-natural and whatever but it doesn’t hold tension.

The visual effects were nice, but the former animation major in me saw a well-made wind and particle simulation. This mindset is rather cynical but at this point I didn’t care what happened to everyone involved, despite how predictable it is. There is one other good shot involving the eye of the tornado but that’s about it.

I enjoy a bad movie every now and then, but I like them to be incredibly corny. This could’ve used more sharks. It’s a movie with sound and fury, but ends up meaning nothing.


Movie Review: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

…I…I…I…nope nope no no no no no no no no no no no no no no. This is a deplorable and disgraceful thing to watch. Unless you are trying to complete the 1001 list, you can go on about your life without ever needing to see this.

In a series of episodes, young people are taken hostage and are subject to some truly awful things.

The happiest moment is the uninspired opening title sequence. The music is so cheerful and yet knowing about what lay within I grew very uneasy.

How do you get people willing to be in something like this? Unlike Flaming Creatures, where the film appeared to be an older version of something you would shoot on your cellphone after a night of heavy drinking and possible drug use, this is an actual serious movie. There is no happiness. There is no joy. There is no hope.

From pre-Fifty Shades stories to the terrible dinner over an hour into the film, you wonder exactly what was going through the actors’ minds. I imagine all thoughts fall under one simple category: WHY? Granted, this kind of stuff has and does happen in the real world but it is not brought to light unless those involved are into that kind of thing or have no choice and, like the poor people in the film, are held hostage. There are even scenes where people, stripped of all clothing, are shot multiple times and you see the wounds appear on the skin. I can’t tell if the special effects are really good for something made in this era or if they actual shot the actor and left them for dead.

I will allow myself, as much as it pains me, to briefly and bluntly tell you one particular scene. Whoever has the best pair of buttocks will be put to death. (insert incoherent shocked mind-rambling here)

The set design fits the mood well. Dark, unsettling, claustrophobic.

In the end, the question boils down to why in the world is this a must-see film before I die? Well, I say it’s because it shows that something like what goes on within the film can be done but only if it contains several layers of subtext. Now, the content that is contained in here from what I’ve read about Pink Flamingos (as I still need to see it) does carry over (especially the coprophagia) but that purpose is for bad taste. Salo is not about good or bad taste; there is no taste.

I suppose I should tell you when the best time to watch it is. If you’re a regular person (whatever that means), don’t let curiosity get the better of you. If you’re a film major or a 1001 completionist, at least see this once. If you need a companion to accompany you and give you solace as you watch this, make sure they have some mental prep as to what’s to come. The time of day does not matter as it is still scarring at 9 in the evening as it is at 5:30 in the morning. Let’s face it, this isn’t high on my list of faves on the 1001 and probably will never be. Unless something like this is on the 1001, you probably won’t see me review it unless I lost a bet.

Did I experience emotion? Yep. Is my mind and intellect broadened by this experience? Yep. Is this a hard watch? Yep. Now if you excuse me, I think it’s time for some heavy-duty brain bleach.


1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: Blonde Cobra

(shakes head and sighs heavily)

I’m known to some friends as the guy who likes experimental films, the guy who is willing to watch some strange stuff, the guy who marches to the beat of a different drummer. OK, but that does not mean I like everything I see, including experimental and avant-garde work. I’ve even created some experimental films, leaning towards a milder Dog Star Man approach than something like Vinyl or Wavelength, one film that I’m reconsidering as my impression towards the piece has changed. With this piece, I’m caught off-guard and I’m not sure what exactly to say.

There are a lot of moments where there is nothing on screen. Accompanying the absence are narratives and snippets of conversation. When there is something on the screen, it’s hard to make out exactly what the image is. It’s not like Haxan where everything was shot in the dark but that the briefness of the shot duration does not allow you to comprehend what you saw. Yes, Dog Star Man did this but on multiple visual layers; here, there is only one layer to look at and even then it’s hard to see. The image may be clearer in terms of visuals but the content is more difficult to grasp.

The film is easier to find than any information about the piece. I tried to watch it with an open mind like I do with all films. In this case, I saw it and tried to figure out why it’s included on the list without much luck. If the intent was confusion, then the director was successful. After all, the movie ends with the question that will be asked by others who see it: “What went wrong?”


1001 MYMSBYD selection

Movie Review: Babe: Pig in the City

Last night, I went to one of my local thrift stores and looked at the movie selection. I bought this for the same reason I bought a Betamax version of the Twilight Zone movie, for kicks. I knew in the back of my head that this was supposedly darker than the first one. Well, this morning I watched with horror as I saw this thing.

I loved Babe. It had charm and humor and was a classic movie, enough to be in the 1001. This had nothing of the sort.

Babe nearly kills the farmer ten minutes into the film as he falls into a well. Seeing the poor guy all mangled, I stopped eating my reheated lunch. I figured they couldn’t kill off someone this early in the film but still it looked like it could happen.

It then turns into a “Save the Farm” plot without it actually happening on screen. Babe is supposed to be in a competition or something and he and the farmer’s wife go to “The City.” What city, you may ask? That’s a good question that frankly I can’t answer. Oh sure, it has a name: “Metropolis.” But the city includes the Sydney Opera House, the Eiffel Tower, the Twin Towers, some Venetian canals, and on the cover, the Golden Gate Bridge. Confused? Just wait.

They come across a hotel filled with animals. Two people run the place but who they are is never explained, nor why they keep these animals. One of them is a clown who lives with monkeys. He tries to stuff Babe in a chest. A little while later, Mrs. Hoggett roams the streets of “The City” and is arrested, keeping her out of the picture for most of the film.

We see the clown at his day job. He uses the monkeys and Babe as part of an act in front of sick kids, I think. Babe, waiting to be paid, accidentally trips the clown after a cannon is lit, all set to the music used for the kick from Inception. The clown is taken away on a stretcher and presumably dies. Yeah. Also, a dog is nearly hung and drowned. A dog on wheels spins out of control and almost dies. The duck is shot at multiple times. A pointless chase scene occurs at the finale as Mrs. Hoggett swings around on a streamer wearing inflated clown pants trying to catch Babe. I kid you not. All is well and good as everyone returns home and the farmer gets the tap to work again.

This is a contender for Worst Depiction of Animals in Peril in a G-Rated Film with Milo and Otis. But wasn’t the first one dark? Sure, but the need to worry wasn’t as strong as in this film. Yes, there are animatronics but because of how lifelike they are you wonder if the dog that’s hit is fake or the real thing.

There is no character motivation or backstory for the animals or the humans. You just have to accept that “the way things are is the way things are” to borrow a phrase from the first movie. Why are there so many neglected animals? I don’t know. What was with the odd behavior of the hotel owners? I don’t know. Why are things left unexplained? I think you know what the answer is.

I have to give them credit for keeping some of the same material from the first one, like the title cards, the narration, the confusing chapter transitions. The story needs work. Mr. Hoggett is wasted as he’s only onscreen for maybe ten minutes out of the 90 minute run time.

I was surprised that Gene Siskel proclaimed it to be the best movie of the year on the front of the box and a four star rating from Roger Ebert, not to mention other raves from other critics. Am I seriously missing something? All I know is that won’t do Pig. That won’t do.


Movie Review: Vinyl

There was me, that is Alex, and my three droogs, that is Pete, Georgie, and Dim, and we sat in the Korova Milkbar trying to make up our rassoodocks what to, oh sorry, wrong movie. As the first filmed “adaptation” of the novel A Clockwork Orange, Andy Warhol has taken the material and stripped it down to a skeleton missing most of the spine.

The camera is static as everyone is crammed in the frame. It’s not until a few minutes in that a voice-over realizes that there was no title sequence and proceeds to read it in the same style as the beginning of “Axxon N” from INLAND EMPIRE. It’s an unrehearsed take as the actors stumble through the lines, dance like a young YouTuber with a webcam in their bedroom, and become so detached from their performance that watching a person eating a hamburger or thirty minutes of a jar of mayo (bonus points if you get the mayo reference) becomes much more appetizing to watch or eat with a side of clockwork orange Jell-O and a glass of korova milk (I’m hungry). When the whole ordeal ends, the camera is left on for a few more minutes and we see a bizarre cast “encounter.”

Would it have been too much trouble to go over their lines a few times? Or move the camera back a few feet? Or even some motivation? Apparently so as it wouldn’t have been put on the undoubtedly indisputably flawless 1001 Movies list.

But what did this accomplish? Well, if your actors forget your lines and you have the nerve to do it in one unrehearsed take then what you see is what you get. When I work with actors, we rehearse until a rhythm is established, something lacking in Vinyl. Also, if you leave the camera running and hope for the best, it probably won’t be pretty. Is it the worst (1/10 worthy) I’ve seen? Nope but it ranks up there. My best guess about the title refers to the type of fabric used in the final encounter and the medium used for the music.

Is it art? Eye of the beholder, I guess. Is it Art? Um, I’ll get back to you on that. It’s the same as Wavelength in that it’s a one-and-done deal. It’s on YouTube but in seven parts last time I checked. As an alternative to the much more famous (and better) Kubrick version, it’s far from horrorshow. The opening shot is similar to the other adaptation but that’s about it. Think I need to undergo some Ludovico and viddy some other cinnies with some fellow droogies.


1001 MYMSBYD selection