(it) wrote: A Thousand Cuts (Charles Evered, 2012)A Thousand Cuts suffers from what seems to me to be an increasing problem in Hollywood that appeared around the same time we started importing a slew of Asian horror films for the domestic market-that would be around 1998, when Ringu hit it so big. It got to the point where every genre flick that came over from Asia, whether it was on Tartan Asia Extreme, Bloody Disgusting, or any of the dozens of other distributors who have worked tirelessly to bring Asian cinema to our doorsteps (and for that I thank them, even if by this time we're getting a dozen Grotesques for every Booth that comes down the line), was marketed as a horror movie. A lot of them weren't, but when they got marketed as such, people went into them with certain expectations. If you sit down with Rampo Noir expecting to see yet another movie like The Grudge, you are bound to be sorely disappointed, even if Rampo Noir is a dozen times better than The Grudge AND all of its sequels and knockoffs combined. But the movies still rented like hotcakes...so American filmmakers started jumping on the bandwagon. "Is there any kind of supernatural element to this movie? Hey, we'll call it a horror film!" The classic American example is William Friedkin's brilliant talk-piece Bug, based on a Tracy Letts play. It flopped so badly in America that no one was willing to release it on DVD for years...and when it finally did come out for the American home video market, the movie was such a smash hit in other countries that it was still playing on the big screen all those years later. Why? Because it got marketed as what it is-an intelligent, cerebral talk-piece that has everything to do with the mental states of its two main characters rather than the sci-fi elements that got so played-up here. Bug isn't a Michael Bay flick, but everyone went looking for one.And here we have A Thousand Cuts, and everything from the cover art to the title tells you that this movie is torture porn. And so pretty much everyone who saw it, the few of us who did (as I write this, the movie has just over five hundred votes on IMDB, whereas the usual no-budget horror flick available on Netflix Instant can usually clear two thousand in a matter of weeks), went into it expecting yet another Saw ripoff. A Thousand Cuts is anything but-like Bug, it is a slow, cerebral, mostly intelligent thriller that is entirely lacking in the gore department. A true disappointment for those looking for scantily-clad scream queens being taken apart by inventive instruments that could have been designed by Stephen Lack's mad character in Dead Ringers. But for about three-quarters of its length, it is pretty bloody perfect if you happen to be a fan of movies like Bug, or my favorite Asian-mismarketing whipping boy, Su-yeon Lee's 4 Inyong Shiktak, released in America as The Uninvited, one of the best movies I've ever seen and about as bloody far from a horror movie as it's possible to be and still contain a ghost. And A Thousand Cuts holds up to those rather lofty comparisons most of the time-and when it doesn't, the movie doesn't completely blow it; the ending could have been far, far worse than it was.Plot: Lance (In the Flesh's Michael A. Newcomer) is America's newest it-boy, a big-time director whose latest horror film was an unexpected smash. (Sound familiar? It should; they could have called the first twenty minutes of this movie The Eli Roth Story.) We open at a lavish party in Lance's backyard. He's not the world's nicest guy, but Evered (Adopt a Sailor), who also wrote, is sure to let us know that the guy isn't just a complete jerk; he's probably not a bad guy when he's not entirely stressed out. The party comes to an abrupt halt after the power goes out briefly and comes back on to showcase a photo; we know nothing, yet, but Lance is obviously shaken, and orders everyone out. Soon enough, an electrician named Frank (Frozen River's Michael O'Keefe) shows up to check out the lights...and reveal the mystery behind the photograph. This leads us to the bulk of the movie, which takes place in Lance's living room as Frank confronts Lance, trying to make him justify the violence in his movies.Does that sound like torture porn to you? Nah, I didn't think so. I mentioned above that Evered drops the ball in the movie's final bits (the last 15-20 minutes of the movie); without being spoilery, I'll say that there is something Frank hints at throughout the entire conversation that would have been better off left offscreen (and to the viewer's imagination). But even so, since Evered HAD to go there, he at least did so in a way that embarrassed neither himself nor the movie. SO while it ends up not being nearly the movie it could have been had it stayed as strong in the final quarter as it was in the opening three, it's still well worth your time, and not at all what you think it's going to be. ***
(ag) wrote: Dark Country (2009) -- [4.5] -- While traveling through the desert, newlyweds pick up a car-wreck survivor who plunges them into a night of suspicion and suspense. Thomas Jane ("The Mist," "Hung") makes his directorial debut with "Dark Country." On one hand, I admire his attempt to blend film noir with comic book aesthetics, but the movie relies on constant green-screen work that's poorly executed. The script by Tab Murphy is well constructed, but I feel like we've probably seen a few episodes of "The Twilight Zone" or "Tales from the Darkside" that feature the same general concept that "Dark Country" hangs its hat on. And it's always disappointing when you guess the big twist ending twenty minutes into the movie. Good performances by Jane and Lauren German as the newlyweds, though. The best scene in the movie is an early one in which the two turn the headlights off and floor it to ninety while he fingers her to orgasm.
(br) wrote: Guilt Trip was an average comedy with a lot of heart. Seth Rogen seemed like he was just being himself, hanging out with his real mom because the on screen chemistry with Barbra Streisand was excellent. It was rather plain at times with them just going on a road trip across the US with a few stops along the way. As the film went on it got better and the jokes were never crazy funny but there were enough subtle laughs to make it worthwhile. The ending was great and really touching and this is a great one for mothers and their son to watch together. Don't go into this expecting the typical Rogen dirty laugh out loud comedy, but what it does bring to the table is a fun flick with a good message.