Tag Archives: 3.0 Star Movies

Jug Face (2013)

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Yet further evidence that no good can come of incest, low budget fright flick “Jug Face” tells the story of Ada (Lauren Ashley Carter,) a teenager bound by the laws of a backwoods cult who gets impregnated before she is to be wed off to a local boy- by her brother (Daniel Manche,) no less, a ruffian of a kid with no compassion for his naive sis. Tradition requires that Ada, having broken the rules of her people, must be sacrificed to a monstrous pit occupied by a supernatural entity not far from her village.

Enter Dawai (Sean Bridgers,) resident town fool and prophet. Dawai’s a little on the simple side, but the powers of the pit work through him as he sculpts ‘jug-faces’ in the likeness of the pit’s next intended victim. After her misstep with her brother, Ada’s next on the list, but she hides her jug-face with the intent of saving her own life, tipping the balance and unleashing hell on the locals.

Firstly, the bad- convoluted plot points, cheeseball dream sequences, and awkward, formally conveyed dialogue by people who look far too polished and pretty to be playing backwoods hicks. The good- decent acting all around, good character development for this kind of movie, and a genuinely original premise. Bonus points for the development of Ada and Dawai’s friendship, as she tries to smuggle him of of a town that offers nothing but dead ends and shadowy menaces.

I was not completely convinced that Dawai was developmentally disabled- it seemed to me he could score mild to moderate on the Asperger’s scale, but Sean Bridgers gave a sensitive performance. Lauren Ashley Carter portrayed Ada with a wide-eyed innocence that comes with being a perpetual victim in a strange world. Most of the other characters range from ignorant hicks out for blood to sadistic abusers with persecution on their minds.

I loved, loved. LOVED the creepy montage at the beginning. The rest of the movie is a steady mix of highs and lows, a perfect candidate for a 3/5 rating. Alternately engrossing and contrived, “Jug Face” is a movie that will most likely be really enjoyed if the viewer considers it’s low budget roots and the filmmaker’s beginning baby steps toward horror greatness.

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Rosie

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    The brief but compelling story of a defining and tragic day in a young mother’s life, Rosie does an effective job building up tension and emotion, and the filmmaker’s use of natural light in his cinematography is commendable. I did think the director, Kieron Yeoman, could have gotten a better actress as the lead or maybe directed her a bit better. She’s strangely cavalier about an event that makes up the short film, albeit letting the occasional tear fall. I know if most moms lost their daughter in the way that this mom did, they’d be hysterical, puffy-faced, and frantic.

    The editing is unusually smooth for a short film. I’ve seen enough student shorts to know that the camera is often shaky, the visuals fuzzy, and the dialogue hard to understand. This is not the case of Rosie, which feels professional. The best I can say for this movie is that I would watch a full-length feature comprised of the same material. Does the woman know her daughter isn’t coming back? Did the law enforcement officials find the body? Was she snatched by a pederast, or did she (as I suspect) fall from the railing and into the ocean? A follow-up might be in order. Although, since the short film has no dialogue, I’m still not sure if ‘Rosie’ was the mother or the daughter. 

   Huh. How about that. I didn’t even realize Rosie had no dialogue until I really thought about it. As an example of effective visual storytelling, that’s pretty good. 

The Baby (1973)

“The Baby” is a very weird ‘cult classic’ (their words, not mine) about a lady social worker who interferes with the matriarch’s hold on a supremely dysfunctional family. The object of social worker Ann Gentry (Anjanette Comer)’s obsessions is ‘Baby,’ a full-grown man (or ‘grown-ass man’ to quote Will Smith in the so-so “Men in Black” sequel) who is kept in a crib and clad in diapers.

Ann seems to believe that the seemingly mentally handicapped fellow is simply the otherwise functional victim of too much negative reinforcement during his development (bad baby! Stop standing up!”) To his sister Alba (Susanne Zenor,) Baby is a scapegoat, to his other sister, Germaine (Marianna Hill,) he is a plaything. But what exactly does the seemingly wholesome Ann want with Baby? What secret lies under the surface of her white bread exterior?

Trust me, this otherwise forgettable schlock-fest is all worth it for the explosively trashy end twist. I never saw that coming. Otherwise, this is an underwhelming distortion of maternal instincts and needs. Baby’s mama wants desperately to coddle him, to protect him from the big bad world, but in doing so only makes it clear the nightmare of overprotection she’s inflicted on him- Hell is in this house.

David Mooney’s performance as the titular ‘baby’ is supremely unsettling- I’m quite positive that Mooney’s voice has been replaced by the cooing and crying sounds of an actual infant, and it’s nearly impossible to tell which of his antics are those of a child and which are the cravings of libidinous man.

At times in this strange story, I wondered if ‘Baby”s limitations were all an act and if he was going to show his true colors on the unsuspecting Ann. Other times I thought Ann was pulling a fast one on the family and wanted Baby for some weird infantile sexual purpose. The scene of Mrs. Wadsworth (‘Baby”s mother) rubbing his legs down with lotion was REALLY creepy. I was like… really? Who does that?

Overall, “The Baby” is an interesting exercise in trash filmmaking, but not really worth watching twice unless you get your kicks watching grown men toddle around and attempt to breastfeed off of attractive women. You know who you are. And I don’t even want to know. On the other hand, for the rest of you, once might be too much. So long! Keep visiting, readers!

24 7: Twenty Four Seven (1997)


Shane Meadows is one of my top favorite filmmakers, so although “Twenty Four Seven” is not bad at all, it’s a bit of a disappointment with my expectations set so high. It is a well-intentioned independent feature featuring Meadows’ trademark working-class Brits, and sporting a slightly confusing ending. It lacks Meadows’ usual intensity, and although it has a pretty decent story to tell, I often found myself getting distracted.

Good-natured and dedicated, Alan Darcy (Bob Hoskins) starts a boxing club to bring focus and passion to the kids in his lower-class town’s lives. The kids, who have little to do but mingle and get into trouble, are initially wary of Darcy’s enthusiasm, but eventually they find that boxing is a good outlet for their rage and frustration.

Darcy tries to provide guidance to the disaffected working-class blokes in his neighborhood, including abused teenager Tim (Danny Nussbaum,) sadsack drug addict Fagash (Mat Hand,) and a lonely fat kid uncharitably dubbed ‘Tonka’ (James Corden,) but finds himself becoming increasingly frustrated with the town’s limited options.

When Darcy borrows stolen money to help set up his boxing club, I expected something to come of it, but nothing really comes of the plot thread. I liked Darcy, Tonka, and Tim but didn’t find the characters as compelling as in some of Shane Meadows’ other films, like “A Room for Romeo Brass,” a film I gave 5/5 stars to.

The more I thought about it, the more I had problems with the ending, which I found increasingly unclear. What exactly happened to a certain despicable character, and are we supposed to believe that that certain someone would have a road to Damascus and show up at the funeral at the end? Pfft.

Nevertheless, Bob Hoskins did a good job playing a compelling character, and Shane Meadows’ potential was evident from early on. The home-video footage of the young boy at the beginning was not really crucial to the plot, but I liked it anyway as it fit the mood of the scene.

I would only really recommend this movie to Shane Meadows fans who are curious how his career progressed over the years. It was worth watching once, definitely. The absence of Paddy Considine (“Dead Man’s Shoes”) or Stephen Graham (“This is England”) was disappointing, but Bob Hoskins did a good job as the idealistic protagonist. An interesting movie, if not exactly fulfilling.

Hide and Seek (1997)

Honestly, I think they should have gone one way or another with this movie — the half documentary, half film narrative doesn’t quite work, and I’m still struggling to figure out why. “Hide and Seek,” not to be confused with the De Niro/Fanning thriller, is the story of Lou (Chelsea Holland,) a adolescent girl forging her identity as a lesbian in the 1960’s.

Interspersed with this narrative are interviews with a variety of gay women. The women courageously tell stories about their experiences with sexual awakening. Meanwhile, the child actors give brave performances in the fictional narrative.

Lou is friends with Betsy (Ariel Mara), while experiencing growing affection toward an African-American classmate. School mean girl Maureen (Alicia Manta) eyes Lou suspiciously, while spreading rumors about the alleged sexuality of her schoolteacher.

Between the documentary segments and the story of Lou’s trials of growing up, the film shows us instructional videos of that time period, in an expression of the bigotry and close-mindedness of the time.

The problem is, the portion focusing on Lou just kind of ends, with no resolution, while the transitions are fairly jarring. I think the feature could have been cut into several different films, each expanded greatly, and therefore improved upon.

I wanted to hear Lou’s story, and I wanted to hear the ladies’ memories, but both in the same movie proved to be somewhat distracting. Overall, though, “Hide and Seek” isn’t a bad film, just a little inconsistent, though I’d advise you to stay as far away as possible from the short films on the special features.

I watched one and started the other, and I have to say it was the most tedious ten minutes of my life. While this deserves to be watched, the short film deserves to rot in art-film purgatory. But if you like pointless shorts with no plot, maybe you’ll like that one. I don’t know.

Frances Ha (2012)

“Frances Ha” is admittedly not normally my type of movie, but I was sporadically entertained by its down-to-earth charm. Filmmaker Noah Baumbach, who skyrocketed to indie fame after acquainting us with a cast of outrageously cruel, petty, narcissistic characters in “The Squid and the Whale” (I guess I’ve made my stance clear on that movie,) squares in on the lifestyle of the big-city intellectual again in “Frances Ha,” but at least now the characters are tolerable.

Greta Gerwig gives a amiable performance as well-meaning, somewhat ditzy college grad Frances Halladay, who aspires to make it as a dancer. Her BFF is the bespectacled and kind of bitchy Sophie (Mickey Sumner,) and and two are as devoted as two friends ever were. When Sophie prepares to move to Japan with her boyfriend who she doesn’t really love, ‘Patch’ (Patrick Heusinger,) Frances feels lost without her best friend, and her life starts to veer off the the tracks.

Not a lot happens in this film. What’s special about it is the real-life quality of the acting and dialogue. However, I did not like this as much as similarly naturalistic “Wendy and Lucy” because there was no high drama. I know, not every life contains a lot of intense drama. But in that movie Michelle Williams was struggling to keep her head above water financially and her fight to provide for her and her dog. She has a goal. Live. Or starve. We can’t look away.

Frances simply flounders. She complains about money, but scrounges up enough to take a trip to Paris where she never leaves her apartment. She lives with two hipsters for a while and it seems like something romantic is going to happen with one of them, but nothing ever does. She wants to dance, but lacks the talent to make it happen. Frances is a nice girl, but the film lacks immediacy.

However, there are pleasures to be had from watching this movie. There is something to be said for getting entangled in a characters life, uneventful as it might be. Frances is a well-written character, and all the side characters seemed real. The down side- the astonishingly tasteless moment when drunken Sophie *SPOILER WARNING* stoically describes the miscarrying of her unwanted baby as ‘cool’ *END OF SPOILER*. Ouch. It’s hard to have sympathy for her after that.

I like the way this movie deals with the everyday awkwardness of relationships. The social difficulties Frances faces never seem forced or exaggerated. Anyone who has said something they later wish they hadn’t (that’s everybody,) drunk or sober, can relate to Frances. The film chronicles little moments on Frances’ journey to become a self-made woman. I’m down with that. I just wish the story had been a little more arresting.

Note- This film is in black and white. Resident whiners and trolls beware. No it is not in color. No we do not need to hear how ‘behind-the-times’ or ‘pretentious’ the filmmaker is. You have been warned.

Mum & Dad (2008)

The movie world is made up of four different kinds of families: the normal families (much less common than the latter varieties, and debatable, as no family is totally normal), offbeat families, and crazy families, for starters. Then there’s the titular Mum & Dadclan, which brings us to the scariest and most dangerous variety, umpteen steps past crazy, and reveling in their own perversion.

It’s hard to even call them family, as such. Only one child, the severely brain-damaged Angela (Miciah Dring), is their own. The others are kidnapped additions brainwashed into adhering to the family’s rules. These are vindictive Birdie (Ainsley Howard) and her silent “brother,” Elby (Toby Alexander). It kind of reminds me of the 1970 horror film Girly, in which “new friends” are brought forcibly into a family of depraved Brits, If Girly were applied with the visceral brutality of a blunt hammer.

The newest addition is quiet Polish immigrant Lena (Olga Fedori), who meets the loquacious Birdie at the airport where they both clean. Lena isn’t stupid; she’s just awfully polite — too polite to follow her instincts. When Birdie and Elby “accidentally”  make Lena miss her bus, she goes home with them, against her own better judgment.

Enter “Mum and Dad” (Dido Miles and Perry Benson). Mum is a manipulative, slick sexual deviant. Dad is also a deviant, who hits Lena over the head and rapes raw meat in front of his family (the camera then closes in on the cum in the meat *gags*). It’s the kind of family relatively normal people stay away from, and Lena is not only determined to survive, but to escape.

To remain free of all pretenses, I will just call a spade a spade — this is a torture flick, competently executed, but mostly devoid of any higher purpose, deeper meaning, or pathos. It does sport, however, an intense and cleverly executed ending and decent acting (best from Dido Miles, who plays a soft-spoken psychopath so well). As a note to people who, like myself, can stomach graphic violence but have trouble with sexual assault, there are no rape scenes in this film, although sexual perversion is prevalent.

Lena is a likable heroine, and although she certainly doesn’t bring about fascination, the viewer will want to see her through. The film is primarily set in the home of the killers, with shots of airplanes soaring overhead, conveying a feeling of distance and one’s desperate need of rescue going unnoticed. Now that I have called a spade a spade, I recommend Mum & Dad to extreme horror buffs and those with (very) strong stomachs.

Night of the Living Dead (1968)

Although George A. Romero’s influential cult classic must have been terrifying for it’s time, the years have rendered it rather mild and outdated. Still, “Night of the Living Dead,”  which was filmed on a shoestring budget of $114,000, serves as an interesting study of peoples’ reactions to a crises and the necessity of action during a devastating event. Furthermore, it interestingly casts a black man in the leading male role, which was quite daring for it’s time.

Fragile Barbra (Judith Dea) makes a visit to her father’s grave with her perpetually complaining brother Johnny (Russell Streiner) when a strange man attacks them. Managing to escape alive (Johnny was not so lucky,) Barbra becomes holed up in a farmhouse, and soon renders herself obsolete due to suffering a complete mental breakdown.It is there that she meets Ben (Duane Jones,) a fellow survivor of what turns out to be a zombie attack.

The movie works best with just Barbra and Ben, who represent two opposite approaches to a crisis. Ben is a kind person but still a survivalist, and has no time for Barbra’s weakly grieving. Barbra is consumed by guilt for leaving her brother, and turns to Jell-O almost immediately, while Ben thinks on his feet and begins to barricade the windows and doors from the approaching ‘ghouls.’

However, when a group of fellow survivors come, this film becomes a bit boring. The most asinine of the survivors, played by Karl Hardman, overacts almost constantly, and listening to the group argue becomes tiresome. Meanwhile, a lot of the violence seems fake (when one character punches another, it sounds like a balloon popping.) The character dynamics are much more interesting when it’s just the two heroes.

You may find yourself laughing at certain scenes, which lack the intensity of “The Walking Dead” but also the tongue-in-cheek self-awareness of films like “Dead Alive” and “Shaun of the Dead.” Yes, in many ways it’s the film that started it all (though “White Zombie” starring Bela Legosi, unwatched by me, came first,) but it pales in comparison to many modern zombie stories. However, I liked how the zombies were not totally stupid and could use tools.

The acting overall wasn’t great (best from Duane Jones and Judith O’Dea, the leads) and the the special effects are dated (although it’s interesting to see how people improvised using practical effects before the era of CGI.) The movie was fun but not particularly disturbing or scary, except for the scene involcing the mother and her daughter (no spoilers.) I wonder how they got away with that.

I may have been shocked by the death of my favorite character at the end, but my psychiatrist had already spoiled it for me (damn you man!) For those who have not been informed of the ending, it will be unexpected and sad. This is an important film for all horror fans and zombie lovers to see, but it isn’t technically great in comparison to later horror flicks. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad I saw it.

Forbidden Zone (1982)

“The Forbidden Zone” takes place in a world entirely unlike our own. From the bizarre recreation of California to the freaky-deaky “Forbidden Zone” of the title, nothing looks the way it should look and none of the characters act the way a normal person would act under any given circumstances.

This is absolutely one of the weirdest movies I have seen in my life. If this intrigues you, this may be the movie for you. If not, maybe not. This bizarre surrealist musical follows Susan B. “Frenchy” Hercules (Marie-Pascale Elfman), a Californian with a pretentious French accent, who passes through a door in her parents’ basement to the “Sixth Dimension” a bizarre world ruled by a jealous queen (Susan Tyrrell) and amorous dwarf king (Hervé Villechaize,)

Frenchy quite willingly becomes the dwarf’s sex slave, but the queen, Doris, becomes determined to destroy her. Meanwhile, Frenchy’s dunderhead brother Flash and Grandpa enter the Sixth Dimension, hoping to rescue her.

The acting ranges from okay (Hervé Villechaize, Susan Tyrrell) to poor (Matthew Bright, as twin brothers Rene & Squeezit). The music, however, was quite good. I especially liked the voices of Marie-Pascale Elfman and Susan Tyrrell, whose throaty tune “Witch’s Egg” was strangely captivating.

This movie is not for the easily offended. There are racist stereotypes (thought by many to be a satiric portrayal of bias in Hollywood) and out-there sexual content. As a comedy, it’s a little weak (certainly not a laugh-out-loud movie). As a musical, it’s quite strong (with songs composed by the director’s brother, Danny Elfman, who later became a composing regular in Tim Burton films.)

“Zone” will divide audiences. For die hard fans of surrealism and cult weirdness, the film will offer subversive pleasures; for the average person, it won’t offer much. For people to whom “Inception” is hard-core weirdness, it will shock and repel. Regardless, it is a polarizing experience and a original picture, if not a particularly coherent one. I leave this one up to you.

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6.0/10

Elephant (2003)

“Elephant” is an interesting experiment, which could benefit from some editing and stronger acting. The ambiguity that surrounds the motivations of the killers is a frustrating, but perhaps relevant, critique of the shroud of confusion that surrounded the Columbine killings. 

   Parents, teachers, bullies, and the media were all held under scrutiny, and many school shootings later, we’re still holding candles in the dark as to what motivates these kids to kill their peers- and themselves- in a time that seems rich with possibility.

    The film is presented in a series of vignettes of students habitating a generic high school on the day of a Columbine-like massacre. Using nonprofessional actors and a handheld camera, the film recounts the a day in the kid’s lives- for many, their last- slowly following them around the school as they interact with their teachers and each other.

   The stand-out actors here are Alex Frost, as Alex, the apparent leader in the duo of shooters, and  Matt Malloy as Mr. Luce, the apathetic principal. Most of the acting (unsurprisingly, considering the inexperience of the cast) is rather stiff and listless, while attempting to be ‘real’ and ‘natural.’ The stillness of the performances are rather confusing considering the extreme nature of the subject matter.

   The characters are relatively interesting, not worth falling in love with but worth observing and studying. The most compelling character for me was Michelle (Kristen Hicks) a geeky student who deals with the bullying of her peers and the apathy of her teachers. Self-conscious of her legs, Michelle is told to tough it out and forced to wear shorts by an uncaring gym teacher.

   The kids’ individual dramas are made obsolete, a least for a little while, by the bigger drama of the shooting. This film is SLOW. 20% of the film is spent following the students, watching the back of their heads with intent interest. I would not recommend this movie to people who like fast-paced cinema. To people who are tolerant of slowness and stillness, I would not necessarily recommend it either. 

   “Elephant” is more an experiment than a full-fledged feature, and people out for entertainment should just forget it. But what do you expect with a Gus Van Sant indie movie about a school shooting? Sicko (cough.) Anyway, I feel pretty neutral about the feature as a whole. Some people might find it to be a film-student’s dream, others will be bored silly. Though I may dismiss it, I will not forget it either.