Entries in Foreign (21)

Thursday
Dec222016

The Wailing- review

 

“The Wailing (Goksung)” (2016)

Directed by Hong-jin Na

Starring Jun Kunimura,  Jung-min Hwang,  Do Won Kwak

Running Time 156 Minutes, Rated R.

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

This is a hellishly bonkers film and one heck of a treat.

Korean filmmaker Hong-jin Na has expertly crafted a topsy-turvy supernatural thriller that is purposely confusing at times but miraculously never boring for a second in this 156 minute foreign affair.  Continuously building bigger insanity off the previous scene’s insanity, “The Wailing (Goksung)” is a daft mixture of Coen brothers dark inept humor, eye scorching gore, and a mystery worth chasing after.

 

After a slew of homicides in his small mountain village, a not-up-for-the-job police officer named Jong-gu, played with early comedic slapstick that transforms into dramatic tragedy by Do Won Kwak, gets the case. Horrific crimes mixed with a mysterious Japanese man living in the woods could be the work of just mushrooms or something much more sinister.  Eventually Jong-gu’s daughter is possessed, and a shaman is called upon for exorcism.  

There’s a lot to unravel in this film, and I’ll gladly give another viewer some other day but a little google research from my wife helped out a bit and I’ve been deciphering it ever since.  I encourage you to decipher it for yourself.

1 Peter 5:8

 

Saturday
Jan102015

Force Majuere- review

 

“Force Majuere” (2014)

Directed by Ruben Östlund

Starring Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Clara Wettergren

Running Time 120 Minutes, Rated R.

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

Swedish director Ruben Östlund ratchets a gut twisting uncomfortableness with the precision of a surgeon; a M.D. of queesiness who studied for 10 years and was first in his class, in “Force Majuere”.  Examined under a microscope powered to the 100th degree of squeamishness are such topics as faltering marriage, manners, the male and female roles in the family dynamic, and one’s own treacherous instincts.  Östlund teeter totters really dark quiet comedy and sympathetic drama expertly.

Workaholic Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) has taken his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and his two young children to the French Alps for some pristine skiing in an attempt to reconnect and recharge the family’s loosening bond. Östlund breaks down the vacation in days, and besides kids getting crabby ,the first day is pretty quiet.  The juiciness doesn’t happen until the next morning when on a deck overlooking the mountain and enjoying some breakfast the family takes a keen gander to the controlled avalanches underway.  

 

In an excellent effect, one of the so-called controlled avalanches picks up way too much steam and way too much snow heading with great speed towards them.  In this moment Tomas bails for himself and runs from his family leaving Ebba clinging to her children.  No one is physically hurt as the mist clears, but the damage is done emotionally for Ebba as Tomas eventually comes back to them and claiming that he never ran away.

A battle of confrontation and denial between Tomas and Ebba start out just between the two and spill out publicly when they meet up with their friends Mats (“Game of Thrones” Kristofer Hivju) and Fanni (Fanni Metelius). Tomas is boiling over with self hate, and you know eventually you know it will spill over. When it does, it’s both terribly sad and terribly funny, which just like the film itself, is a tough feat that is successfully pulled off.   

which just like the film itself, “this” is a tough feat that is successfully pulled off.

Matthew 26:56

 

Monday
Mar242014

The Raid 2: Berandal- review (SXSW 2014)

 

“The Raid 2: Berandal" (2014)

Directed by Gareth Evans

Starring Iko Uwais, Yayan Ruhian, Arifin Putra

Running Time 150 Minutes, Rated R.

4.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I’ve never been more audible watching a film in my entire life.  I am not a loud person at the movies, in fact, I pride myself on being quite quiet when at the cinema.  Exceptions usually occur when not only the movie but the entire audience strongly grabs hold of the directors clear cut vision.  I cackled uproariously when I saw “The 40 Year Old Virgin” and any of the “Jackass” films, I wailed with my fellow filmgoers when I saw “Passion of the Christ”, and during the “The Raid 2: Berandal” I hooted, hollered, and moaned to some of the most unbelievably awesome action I’ve ever witnessed.   

This film is a love letter to brutality.  If you’re not in any part interested in watching skulls get smashed in, skin slicing blade fights, or characters named Hammer Girl who is skilled with...well, I’ll avoid spoilers, then move along good kind sir or mam and go watch something else.  It’s ok, totally nothing to be ashamed of, in fact after reading that last sentence you’re the more well adjusted if “The Raid 2” isn’t your bag.  This film is a celebration for the not so well adjusted, and right now I’m cheersing my drink to the sky.  

Gareth Evans dished out one of the best action films of this generation with the original “Raid: Redemption”.  A non stop and non plot furiously paced violent extravaganza that kept its location all in one high rise building that pitted rookie cop Rama (Iko Uwais) against blood curdling fight on top of blood curdling fight.  If you were to try to explain the difference in the amount and content of violence between “Raid: Redemption” and “Raid 2: Berandal” in calories, Redemption would be a side garden salad with squeezed lemons for a dressing where as Raid 2 would be a huge plate of Outback Steakhouse Aussie Cheese Fries that are washed down with McDonald’s Chocolate Triple Shake.

 

Raid 2 is an ultraviolence art.  Evans gave the sequel an additional 50 minutes of mind blowing action from mind boggling choreography, that in addition, has not only a plot but a very intricate one at that.  Evans, who also wrote and edited the film, is going for nothing less than the Godfather treatment.  This may not be the Indonesian martial arts gangster equivalent to Coppola's masterpiece, but I think its within a roundhouse’s reach.  Rama, who thought he had earned his way home to his wife and infant son after he was the last man standing at the end of the first Raid, comes to realize he’s not even close.  To protect his family from much worse people than faced off with in the original, he must go undercover serving two years in prison, where you will witness a prison mud fight that will melt your face off, and unveil the corrupt Jakarta police along with their backers.

From a brilliantly designed car chase, to “Warriors”/”Kill Bill” stylized villains that consist of the aforementioned Hammer Girl along with Baseball Bat Man (I won’t give away his choice of weapon either), to the originals crowd pleaser Mad Dog making a reappearance but as a totally different character, to a gory knife fight for the ages, you will not be able to watch “Raid 2” quietly, and nor should you.

…..and nor should “this”.

Isaiah 60:18

(sxsw selfie w/ Gareth Evans)

 

Monday
Mar242014

10,000 KM (Long Distance)- review (SXSW 2014)

 

“10,000 KM” ("Long Distance") (2014)

Directed by Carlos Marques-Marcet

Starring Natalia Tena, David Verdaguer

Rated R.

3 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

I love that realization when I’m watching a scene, and I finally notice that there haven’t been any cuts or edits in quite some time, ala Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men and Gravity.  Fellow Spanish director Carlos Marques-Marcet does the same feat by impressively starting out “10,000 KM (“Long Distance”) with a 22 minute uncut shot that follows the romantic couple of Alex (Natalia Tena) and Sergi (David Verdaguer) nearing the end of a steamy ‘between the sheets’ encounter.  A scene that took over three days to shoot and 17 takes to get results in a showcase of excellent spacework and superb acting.  The long take keeps up with them in their Barcelonian apartment as they sweetly discuss and plan having their first child, that is until Alex checks her email and is greatly surprised to have been awarded a yearlong residency in Los Angeles for her photography.  Sergi can’t quit his teaching job, and this is just too great of an opportunity for Alex to pass up so eventually the two agree to put their plans on hold for 12 months and do their relationship long distance style at the length of 10,000 KM (That’s 6,000 miles to us Americans).     

As Marques-Marcet explained after the showing at SXSW, he didn’t do the long uncut opening shot just to show you how cool of a director he can be, he did it to show the intense intimacy of their relationship and the juxtaposition of them in their year long separation.  Alex and Sergi spend just about the rest of the film apart and communicating via any and all of today’s technological advances in this modern day tale of heartbreak.

  

Utilizing everything from smartphone, to facebook, to mostly video chat, and even a little google maps Alex and Sergi work hard to keep everything normal, but frustrations quickly show without physical contact.  So far apart, they find it tough to keep on the same emotional level, conversations become forced, and eventually each one finds themself not picking up the other’s call just because it was made.  Facebook jealousies set in on Sergi’s part as he can only see the people Alex is meeting via the cold and distant social network.

“10,000 KM” works like most long distance relationships; the heat and excitement from your time together ultimately to fade the longer you’re apart from each other until sadly, a numbing boredom starts to take over. The restrictions of the script make for the film’s center to be rather boring and repetitious.  There is a day counter that intermediately lets us know the amount of time that has passed and that’s supposed create a time bomb timer effect, but that’s not enough to jolt us out the two’s own malaise.

This doldrum would lose most audiences, but the two actors won’t let us escape.  David Verdauger, known more for his comedic television work from Spain, tackles this romantic drama with a reserved gusto and Natalia Tena (Game of Thrones) shines as a woman learning how to balance the passion of a lover with the passion of her work.  The strong acting, combined with Marques-Marcet’s strength of editing, “10,000 KM” has an insightful look at technology’s inability to perfect keeping us closer.  

an insightful look at “this” inability to perfect keeping us closer.  

Colossians 2:5

 

(at the wondeful Alamo Ritz theater with the cast and crew of 10,000 KM)

 

Tuesday
Jan072014

The Act of Killing- review

 

“The Act of Killing” (2013)

Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer 

Starring Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin

Running Time 115 Minutes

5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

“He’s a happy man.”

This is how one person describes Anwar Congo.  And it seems as such.  There is a bit of inherent jovialness to the elderly man, almost a playfulness that’s both charming and contagious.  A horrific fascination washed over me in watching this man since we quickly become privy by his own confession that his hands are personally responsible for murdering over 1,000 people.  

Joshua Oppenheimer’s courageous and brilliant documentary, “The Act of Killing”, creatively captures what the Texas native set out to do: point out how a violent past can still thrive in the present and continue to do massive damage to a society by helping fear and corruption dominate.  In 1965 the Indonesian government was overthrown by the military and looked to gangsters (translated ‘free men’) to exterminate the country of any and all ‘communists’; killing upwards to a million citizens.  Instead of using the typical interview set up for the documentary, Oppenheimer geniously and daringly suggests to Anwar and his fellow executioners to cinematically recreate their conquests.  Anwar and crew are more than happy to oblige, writing their own screenplay, building lavish sets, and utilizing makeup artists to put on a production that will truthfully document their historical triumphs over communism.  What follows is a truly outlandish and extraordinary film of the darkest proportions that documents life long after unspeakable sins.    

Anwar, a young man in 1965 was a death squad leader during the coup and earned quite the feared reputation. One of the first places Anwar takes us is to is the location where he spent so much time slaughtering so many lives.  Initially killing was so literally messy for Anwar, but inspired from American cinema he soon found out that wires were the way go for a cleaner killing.  When Oppenheimer plays this scene back for Anwar all Anwar can concentrate on is his wardrobe choice, noting he would have never worn white pants during killing time.     

So what happens to the mass murderer when he grows old?  In Indonesia he becomes a celebrity, appearing on local tv news where gangsters receive adoration and are praised for emulating those they saw from the American cinema.  I’ve never seen such blunt candidness of one’s tresspasses.  Anwar’s pride eventually becomes reflection and maybe even remorse.  For Anwar, this shoot which spans over five years is his therapy.  When reenactments have Anwar playing a communist being strangled, he tearfully confesses he finally realizes what it must of truly felt like, only for Oppenheimer to disagree because he never had to really ever be faced with actually dying.   

I came away thinking that today's Indonesia may be one of the most corrupt places on Earth.  We’re shown mafia type shakedowns of local shop owners where the onscreen enforcers take great joy in their acts, we see how politicians get their bribed votes, and we still see the fear of what it means to be accused a communist.  It’s like if the Nazi regime was still in power after World War 2.  

“War Crimes are defined by the winners”, spoken by the expertly emotionally repressive Adi Zulkardy, a fellow executioner of Anwar.  Sadly, Adi appears to correct but its with great hope that Oppenheimer’s crushing documentary will shed light on the losers.

Matthew 26:52

 

Saturday
Oct192013

Honeymoon Suite- review

 

“Honeymoon Suite” (2013)

Directed by Zao Wang

Starring Hanhong Zou, Cary Woodworth

Running Time 14 Minutes

4 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

 

This is what a short is supposed to accomplish.  Zao Wang’s 14 minute horror comedy short instantly sucks you into the fun world he’s created and has you caring where it’ll take you.

Shot and set in Beijing, China, a swanky hotel is receiving a very special guest.  It’s up to the hotel manager played by Hanhong Zou, who runs a tight ship, to provide the best accommodations for the lunar-challenged patron.

“Honeymoon Suite” wonderfully balances comedy with an effective eeriness to put you off balance, and adds a dash of cuteness that really plays well.  Jack Lam’s cinematography is really top notch, and Zao Wang impressively directs a very fun story that could have just come off easily as a long commercial for the Opposite House Hotel that funded the short.

I’m marking down Zao Wang as director to look out for, and so should you.

I’m marking down Zao Wang as director to look out for, and so should “this”.

 

Monday
Jan072013

Rust and Bone- review

“Rust and Bone” (2012)
Directed by Jacques Audiard
Starring Marion Cotillard, Matthias Schoenaerts
Running Time 120 Minutes, Rated R.
4 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

I just love director Jacques Audiard’s wide scope for the human character.  His French crime thriller masterpiece, “A Prophet”, hit me like a thunderbolt.  That gem shows the rise of a lowly criminal to his monumental rise to mafia kingpin and earned every single one of it’s 155 minute running time, not wasting a frame.  Audiard allows his characters to sizzle, being altered by every turn in the road that life gives you.

You can see that scope in Audiard’s latest, “Rust and Bone”, even if it never nears the impacts of “A Prophet”. There’s a higher ante of melodrama in “Rust and Bone” that, at times, almost veers into crazyland and might have if not for the piercing and impressively honest performances from it’s two leads; Oscar winner Marion Cotillard, who made history when she became the first actor to win an Academy Award in a French speaking film when she took home Best Actress in “La Vie en Rose” and Matthias Schoenaerts, who got everyone’s attention from his starring turn in last year’s Academy nominated Best Foreign Film “Bullhead”.     

Alain (Matthias Schoenaerts) and Stephanie (Marion Cotillard) first cross paths at a nightclub in the south of France.  Alain, who just took a bus with his son, Sam, (Armand Verdure) and moved in with his grocery teller sister, Anna (Corinne Masiero), gets work as a bouncer at the club and meets Stephanie by breaking up a fight that she’s in.  Driving her home, he calls her out her outfit as something a whore would wear, but that doesn’t stop him from giving her his phone number.

Months later when Stephanie does call Alain its under very different circumstances. Stephanie, who trains Orca whales at a pseudo French Seaworld loses both her legs after in a vaguely shot sequence.  The two become friends and fuel each other.  She becomes his inner strength that helps him fulfill his potential, a brutal potential as he rises the ranks of underground MMA fighting, and he is the non-coddling presence that snaps her out of her depression letting her transition to life after her tragedy.

The twists and turns aren’t as fully fleshed out the way they were in “A Prophet”, but there is still a searing realness that cuts to the bone.  Alain’s relationship with his son won’t win him father of the year, sadly ill equipped to handle the balance of being a caring father and still wanting to be the womanizing man on his own. Cotillard, a marvelous actress who expertly dances between big Hollywood fare back to strong indies could most definitely pick up another nod, dazzles in her transformation that thankfully doesn’t dwell the whole film on Stephanie’s depression and gets dramatically much more from Katy Perry’s Firework, than anyone should ever be able to.  

gets dramatically much more from “this” than anyone should ever be able to. 

Exodus 4:11

Monday
Dec172012

Holy Motors- review

“Holy Motors” (2012)
Directed by Leos Carax
Starring Denis Lavant, Edith Scob
Running Time 115 Minutes, NR
3.5 Mitchs out of 5
Mitch Hansch/movieswithmitch.com

I believe “Holy Motors” has a rhyme and a reason to it; I’m just not able to translate it.  It’s not the French dialogue, the subtitles spell it out for me.  It’s Leos Carax’s narrative theme that I need a translator for.  Carax’s Cannes winner is no doubt challenging; I’d love to be the super indie reviewer who gets it, but, at times, I was scratching my head trying to figure out what it all means.  Of course that’s no accident, I feel like Carax has gift wrapped a beautiful puzzle for us but purposely took out a few pieces beforehand so that we can never put it together.  

This could have been one of those “what-the-what-Frenchy-films?” that’s just weird for weird’s sake, but “Holy Motors” rises above odd, painting a film that’s at least always intriguing and led by a stupendous performance from Carax’s often cast Denis Lavant (Beau Travail, The Lovers on the Bridge).  

You’re either feeling it right from the start or you’re not.  An almost David Lynchian dreamist storytelling, “Holy Motors” begins with a naked 10 year old dancing on a movie screen that is watched by an expressionless crowd. Cut to a bedroom where a man with a metal key for a middle finger opens up a hidden door to this theater, a giant dog walks down the aisle and all of this isn’t referenced again till “Holy Motors” ends.  So, you know, that happened.

From there it’s a day in the life of Oscar (Denis Lavant).  A wholly original character that roams the streets of Grand ol’ Paris in a white stretch limousine completing “assignments” that have him transform into one shadowy person to the next, completing random acts that aren’t so random to Oscar and his limo driver/agent Céline (Edith Scob).  The limo acts a set piece where Oscar transforms from one person to the next and at times, gives us the best glance of who this very tired man is with his very strange profession.      

Lavant’s IMDB’s character page reads as M. Oscar / Le banquier / La mendiante / L'OS de Motion-Capture / M. Merde / Le père / L'accordéoniste / Le tueur / Le tué / Le mourant / L'homme au foyer.  That’s eleven very impressive and very different people that Lavant plays that share nothing but the habit of cigarette smoking.  From an old female beggar, to a very erotic motion capture employee, to a disappointing father, to a knife wielding hitman, and more.  

My favorite creation of his is a very disturbing leprechaun looking psychopathic who wanders the streets eating flowers, scaring bypassers, and causing utter chaos at a photoshoot when he kidnaps a model played by Eva Mendes.  This is my first film of the veteran Denis Lavant.  He really is extraordinary in this film.

“Holy Motors” is an exercise in extreme imagination, one well worth the fast paced mental workout it doles out. For me, Carax’s climax doesn’t prove worth the fascination that his film wonderfully builds.  Still, “Holy Motors” is it’s own film, and great at that.

Still, “Holy Motors” is it’s own film, and great at “this”.

Judges 3:21-22

Monday
Sep102012

The Raid: Redemption- review

“The Raid: Redemption” (2012)
Directed by Gareth Evans
Starring Iko Uwais, Ananda George
Running Time 101 Minutes, Rated R.
4 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

If movies could get an NC-17 rating for brutal violence, then the Indonesian action ferocity that is “The Raid: Redemption” would definitely receive it.  Titled “Serbuan Maut” in it’s home country, The Raid is the bloody cherry on top of excellent action film-sundaes that have come out in recent years from the local market.  This film has some of the best fight choreography to come in years.

I’m gonna give a mini-review because this movie deals little with plot.  Sure, there are some comparable twists from the Hong Kong “Internal Affairs” that Martin Scorsese adapted into “The Departed”, but for the most part the plot is quite simple.  Deep in Jarkart’s slums lies an impenetrable 15-story fortress that the local SWAT team must go deadly floor to deadly floor to take out the despicable crime lord Tama Riyadi (Ray Sahetapy).  The story centers on the young family man SWAT rookie Rama, played by Iko Uwais, also responsible for that sweet choreography, who amazingly piles up a body count.

Here’s a film that induces more bone-crunching cringes than your local wishbone wish competition.  Like “Ong-bak” with a fleet of high powered guns, “The Raid: Redemption” is gleefully violent, in a way that makes you want to do some charity so you can feel like a working member of society again.  

So “this” can feel like a working member of society again.

 

Psalm 27:3


Monday
May142012

Sleepless Night- review

“Sleepless Night” (2012)
Directed by Frédéric Jardin
Starring Tomer Sisley, Serge Riaboukine
Running Time 98 Minutes, Rated R.
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Writer and director of “Sleepless Night”, Frédéric Jardin, gets the ball rolling down a hill with break neck speeds consuming everything along its way, making the action genre proud.  While the high adrenaline action puffs its chest out plenty, Jardin is able to take a very elementary plot and layer intelligence that makes for compelling dynamite.  

French copper Vincent, played by the lean Tomer Sisley, steals a bag full of coke from mobster slash nightclub owner Jose Marciano (Serge Riaboukine), who, in turn, kidnaps Vincent’s son Thomas (Samy Seghir).  Vincent must return the nabbed stash back to Marciano to get his kid back, but, of course, you know then it’s not going to be as easy as that.  Internal Affairs agents Vignail (Lizzie Brocheré) and Lacombe (Julien Boisselier) are hot on his trail and follow Vincent into Maricano’s super sized night club.  This nightclub is the film's central location, and Jardin utilizes every nook and cranny, from an extremely crowded body to body dance floor, a back of a kitchen, a pool hall, a poker room, and even using Marciano’s office. The set feels as alive as Die Hard’s Nakatomi Plaza.  

Sisley aptly plays the antihero who quickly realizes that the only thing that matters is getting his son back alive. A very nice bit of humanity comes from Sisley conveying Vincents physical pain as he re-applies bandages to an ongoing wound as well as the mental anguish from the sins of a father.  Almost certain fail situations that find a believable way out and moments of supposed victory that get snatched away from us keep us, the viewers, on our toes all the way through.  Moving from one room to the next, Vincent takes a beating and Jardin shoots his fight sequences with an almost clumsy realness.  Vincent and Lacombe’s kitchen tussle harken to the epic longevity of Roddy Piper and Keith David’s fight in John Carpenter’s “They Live”.  

“Sleepless Night” doesn’t always have its characters make choices at the top of their intelligence, but the film’s pace is so rapid you’ll be too focused to let it bog you down.  The ending comes with a huge anti-climatic thud. Where Jardin may have intended it to contrast that rapid pace, it feels more like an “I’m not sure how to end this so I think this looks pretty artsy.” ending.  Nonetheless “Sleepless Night” is a gripping foreign action film that will have you wide awake.

“This” will have you wide awake.  

 

Sunday
Oct302011

Wolf Creek- 11 Days of Horror Review

“Wolf Creek” (2005)
Directed by Greg Mclean
Starring  Nathan Phillips, Cassandra Magrath, Kestie Morassi
Running Time 99 Minutes, Rated R.
2.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Someone once emailed me, telling me how when he was younger he saw a film called “Wolf Creek”, how this movie was a scarring experience, and asked me to review this film.  ‘Hey Mitch, it hurts when I put my hand on the hot stove.  Will you please put your hand on it?’  I’ve never been the brightest bulb, so yes, yes I will.  Kidding aside, I really appreciated that email so thanks to that good Christian brother, I love to hear how movies can greatly affect us in greatly different ways.
_
_

There is definite talent in writer/director Greg Mclean’s film-making.  I was worried going into “Wolf Creek” is was nothing more than torture-porn.  When I saw Eli Roth’s “Hostel”, I was disgusted by what I saw. The scares that I felt were in watching torture sequences, but unlike in “Wolf Creek”, I never once cared for any of Roth’s characters.  I was surprised  at how quickly I liked Mclean’s characters, and while I knew little about them, there was a quick trust built up in them.    

English girls Kristy (Kestie Morassi) and Liz (Cassandra Magrath) are on their way to Wolf Creek National Park deep in the Australian outback with, Sydney bloke, Ben (Nathan Phillips).  There is budding romance between Liz and Ben that plays wonderfully real, and after their first kiss, it feels the way it should: special.  I loved the way Mclean took his time with the film, letting us enjoy the three’s company.  You almost forget you’re watching a horror film, existential questions asked between each other give characters depth.  A thousand horror films have tried to draw you into that false sense of security, this one does and does it well.  

When they get back from the hike, some long-awaited ominous didgeridoo music plays as they come back to a car that won’t start.  When a talkative backwoods outdoorsman by the name of Mick (John Jarratt), who seems pleasant enough, happens to come by with a tow-truck, it seems too good to be true.  That’s because it is.  All the horrible things to come after are truly horrible because we’ve been given the time to get to know Kristy, Liz, and Ben.

Are the unspeakable things shown terrifying? Yes.  Do I think it makes for a good film? No, not really. Watching movies like this hurts my soul.  The storyteller has effectively made me empathize with these most unfortunate, and as I love horror films and I love to be scared, I don’t want to watch women put in these situations.  I don’t want to wonder what it would be like if my wife had to go through this.  Again, watching this hurts the soul.  

That said, these scenes are effective in scaring me.  The director has succeeded, but that doesn’t mean I liked it, and if you do than you will like this film.  With that said, Greg Mclean takes a shift for the bad with twenty minutes to go.  There is a moment when everything changes and “Wolf Creek” stops being horrific and just becomes another cliched horror movie ending.  I started watching just another movie again, the dread was relieved, and I sat up disappointed with the very flawed climax that maybe didn’t undo the earned scares, but it did have me stop caring.

“This” had me stop caring.  

 

Friday
Oct212011

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari- 11 Days of Halloween Review

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" (1919)
Directed by Robert Wiene
Starring Werner Krauss, Conrad Veidt, Friedrich Feher
Running Time 71 Minutes, Unrated
4 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

For many, “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is the first true horror film.  Before Fritz Lang there was Robert Wiene’s maddening look of paranoia through the lens of German expressionism. This eerie film is filled with amazing sets that defied the normalized storytelling of the time that will have you coming and going.  Add a haunting score and thick makeup to enhance the dark atmosphere of this German film that contrary to it’s home debut initially flopped when it hit U.S. soil.    

Werner Krauss is Dr. Caligari, an evil man who has a fondness for smelling his hat goes town to town with his traveling fair act, the all knowing Sonambulist (a tortured soul under spell to do the horrible acts of their controller).  Conrad Veidt plays to the doomed Sonambulist, who predicts fair goer Francis’ best friends death (and assures his accuracy).  Francis (Friedrch Feher) is than caught in a thick trying to prove Dr. Caligari’s guilt.  

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” is classic viewing not just for the film student but for anybody looking for a good scare.

“This” is classic viewing not just for the film student.

 

Monday
Jun132011

Trollhunter- review

“Trollhunter” (2011)
Directed by André Øvredal
Starring Otto Jespersen, Robert Stoltenberg, Knut Nærum
Running Time 90 Minutes, Rated PG-13
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ moviswithmitch.com

Every culture has their lore.  For us Americans it’s Roswell, Big Foot, and a government balanced budget.  For the Norwegians it’s the existence of trolls, which director and fellow countryman André Øvredal tells via the faux-documentary in “Trollhunter”.  “Trollhunter” is a “Blair Witch Project” meets “Cloverfield” film that relies more on dark deadpan humor than an ultra tense atmosphere.  With amazing but reserved special effects that are done on a shoestring budget that easily surpasses last years comparable but over-hyped “Monsters”.  The effects are so convincing,  you can’t help but ponder why films such as “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” with their mega budgets can’t make it’s CGI look like more than just a fancy cartoon.  

A student news film crew believes they found the individual responsible for a slew of illegal bear killings. Thomas, Johanna, and Kalle track the grizzly loner Hans (Otto Jespersen) deep into the Norwegian woods only to discover that Hans is no poacher but tired hero defender of man against the existence of trolls.  The students, as well as us the audience, look in both terror and wonderment as a three headed troll looms over Hans and them.  Later explained with scientific reasoning that had me almost convinced, we come to find out what trolls really are.  The script has fun with the details, and at point, I did a silent applause in my head when a character actually asks the obvious “why don’t we all know of this (trolls).”

This isn’t just a “look, we’re a film that takes trolls seriously” film, but instead this is an intriguing story that holds our attention while an above average mystery unfolds, which just happens to be a film about trolls.  Only a few times does “Trollhunter” hit a horror tone, and since that tone is so effective, it had me hoping for a couple more of those moments, but it’s hard to argue André Øvreda’s finished product.  

Amidst all the awesome, there are wrong turns in this film.  At one point the master of troll hunting assures the crew that the cave their walking into is void of any trolls only to be very wrong, giving in to unearned opportunity to have a troll scene.  Also a very annoying plot point where Trolls can smell the blood of a Christian (which is why I was never recruited to be a hunter).  The script takes such a nice effort to give trolls a scientific bearing that a villainous distaste to such a religious nature comes off as a magical ability and is unwarranted.  

The found footage motif has quickly become one of the more over-used cinematic stylings of late, and it is quickly running out of steam.  But give Øvredal credit as he uses the sub-genre as well as could be expected even when the opening and closing title cards telling us that experts diagnosed what was shot as real holds very little weight and takes away any mystery of what’s to happen to our lead characters.  When all is said and done, “Trollhunter”, is simply a very fun film, that provides a climax that generates comparison to a certain Spielberg film with large monstrous creatures.   

“This” provides a climax that generates comparison to a certain Spielberg film with large monstrous creatures.

 

Monday
Dec132010

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale- review

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (2010)
Directed by Jalmari Helander
Starring Jorma Tommila, Per Christian Ellefsen, Onni Tommila
Running Time 84 Minutes, Rated R.
3 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Jalmari Helander, in his feature-length directorial debut, uses his popular shorts; “Rare Exports Inc” and “Rare Exports: The Official Safety Instructions” to fashion Christmas’ beloved tale gone wrong in the most bizarre film of the year.  

So you think Old Saint Nick is a jolly fat dude who loves all the children of the world?  WRONG!  According to Fins and their Scandinavian mythology, Santa Claus is a demonic torturer of little children.  Bad Santa has rules and believe me brother, you better not end up on his naughty list.  Campy lines early on like “Watch your mouth, it’s Christmas time” make for just the right treatment of this peculiar look at the Christmas tale you thought you knew.  

An American archeological dig unearths the jolly oppressor who soon starts wreaking havoc on the small frozen town on the outskirts of Finland by the Russian border.  Helander does a very good of making you realize how desolate and non-winter-wonderland their terrain is.  When all the little children, as well as all the potato sacks go missing, only the last little boy Pietari (Onni Tommila), not captured by Evil Santa and his minions of ear biting/ gingerbread loving/ naked loyal minions of elves knows what’s at stake.  When Rauno (Jorma Tommila), Pietari’s widowed father, captures one of the angry ol’ elves and wants to ransom him off for decimating the reindeer harvest for the year, a creative blend of horror and holiday film collide.  
My Christmas wish would have been for the director Helander to keep the x-mas weirdness momentum rolling.  Instead, the second act  sluggishly suffers after such a curiously wonderful setup.   The reigns almost slip through Helanders fingers until he redeems “Rare Exports” with a heroic ending that could have been pushed even further.  “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” delivers a quirky Christmas present that will give the teenage viewers something to quote and has imagination akin to early Tim Burton.  I just wish Helander would have delivered his horror akin to early Sam Raimi.  In the end, “Rare Exports” safely avoids the naughty list and will not leave coal in your stocking.

“This” safely avoids the naughty list and “this” will not leave coal in your stocking.     

Isaiah 7:14 

Sunday
Oct312010

H.R.T.W. Day 7: SPAIN

HORROR ‘ROUND THE WORLD 

DAY 7: Spain

“[Rec]” (2007)

Directed by Juame Balaguero, Paco Plaza

Starring Manuela Velasco, Ferran Terraza, Jorge-Yamam Serrano

Running Time 78 Minutes, Rated R

3.5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Zombie films are nothing new, neither are POV horror flicks but you don’t have to break new ground if you can execute it well.  Directors Juame Balaguero and Paco Plaza do exactly that in Spain’s very effective cinematic embodiment of unsettling fear.  The film takes a while to get going but as youu come the bone chilling third act in this short 78-minute film, the splendid nerve-wrecking scares will have you feeling the claustrophobia and fear just as the movie’s trapped characters do.  The Hollywood court-ordered American version “Quarantine” came out shortly after but stick with the original if you want to do it right.

Angela Vidal (Manuela Velasco) is a perky tv reporter who, along with her trusted side-kick cameraman Pablo, follows the events of a Barcelona firehouse for the night.  When a call comes in to the fireman from an elderly woman screaming in her apartment complex, Angela and Pablo tag along.  When they arrive, with no explanation, the old bat takes a bite out of a policeman on the scene, shortly thereafter the building is locked down in a quarantine.  The bites, of course, make you undead but what makes this film a cut above the rest is the claustrophobic conditions told in real time via Pablo’s handy-work and Angela’s diligence to get to the story despite her fear.  What’s even better is that you never feel any hope of rescue as people realize the gravity of their situation and that there’s nothing to be done about it.  There might not be much in character development but watching these people trapped in this sealed off building discovering more and more bad news proved “[Rec]” to be a wonderful trick and a petrifying treat. 

Saturday
Oct302010

H.R.T.W. DAY 6: New Zealand

HORROR ‘ROUND THE WORLD  
DAY 6: New Zealand
“Dead Alive” (1992)
Directed by Peter Jackson
Starring Timothy Balme, Diana Penalver, Elizabeth Moody
Running Time 100 Minutes, Rated R

  

 

 

5 Mitch’s out of 5

Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Unfortunately, to review this movie I’m going to employ one of the most overly used review phrases but I can think of no better way to describe Peter Jackson’s comedy-horror classic, “Dead Alive”, but as a “tour-de-force” in blood, guts, and gore!  Jackson’s flawless film is an amazing achievement not only in horror, being maybe the goriest film ever, but in cinema as a whole.  Superbly crafted, Jackson goes for broke, perfecting sickening sight gag after sickening sight gag with the help of off the chart gore effects from Richard Taylor and prosthetics by Bob McCarron.  On top of that, there are wonderful performances all wrapped in a love-letter look at 1950‘s New Zealand, all making “Dead Alive” the “Casablanca” of horror.

Lionel Cosgrove (Timothy Balme) is a bumbling momma’s boy who becomes romantically entangled with the enchanting Paquita (Diana Penalver).  While Lionel’s overbearing mum (Elizabeth Moody) is spying on their first date at the zoo, mum gets bit by the cursed Sumatran rat-monkey.  Shortly there after, mum dies but doesn’t stay dead, coming back to life eating everything alive, including Paquita’s dog in a spectacular gross-out scene.  Mum wreaks havoc on the town, making zombies out of the nurse, a gang of greasers, a kung-fu priest, and half the rest of the town which culminates in an orgy of a bloody climax that has no rival in any other film.  It’s up to Lionel to choose between his mass murdering mother or saving the day and getting the girl.  “Dead Alive” is a masterpiece of horror that does no wrong.  You will do no wrong by watching this film as soon as possible!

Friday
Oct292010

H.R.T.W. DAY 5: South Korea

HORROR ‘ROUND THE WORLD  
DAY 5: South Korea
“A Tale of Two Sisters” (2003)
Directed by Ji-woon Kim
Starring Su-jeong Lim, Jung-ah Yum
Running Time 115 Minutes, Rated R
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Moving slower than most American films, South Korea’s “A Tale of Two Sisters”, draws out it’s scares with a disturbing snail’s pace.  Director Je-woon Kim forces you to sit in the dread and expects you to concentrate on a much smarter film then you thought you were getting into.  At times this film was very confusing making me almost want to give up but if you stick with it diligently, as I did, you will be rewarded.  By the end, previous shots come back to answer most questions with a chill and pays off with a conclusion that will make you think a bit and might frighten you enough to pee bit.

At the core of this film isn’t a ghost story but rather a dysfunctional family’s co-existence with each other.  Sisters Soo-mi (Su-jeong Lim) and Soo-yeon (Geun-Young Moon) return back home to their distant father (Kap-su Kim) and cruel stepmother (Jung-ah Yum) after spending time in a mental institution due to their mothers death.  The film has the feel of J-Horror at times, or in this case K-Horror, but director Kim never forgets about the family relationship struggles that can be maddening...literally.  Look for great performances by Su-jeong Lim as the teenaged older sister protective of her little sister and Jung-ah Yum playing the very unbalanced stepmother.  For some unsettling terror, watch Jung-ah Yum in a dinner scene that goes awry with some catatonic guests.  And watch “A Tale of Two Sisters” for a South Korean horror delicacy. 

Thursday
Oct282010

H.R.T.W. DAY 4: France

HORROR ‘ROUND THE WORLD  
DAY 4: France
“High Tension” (2003)
Directed by Alexandre Aja
Starring Cecile De France, Maiwenn Le Besco
Running Time 91 Minutes, Rated R
3 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

“High Tension” or as the French say “Haute Tension” is a straight up gore fest presented not so straight up (several entendres). Gruesome slasher horror is born when repressed sexuality clashes with overt perversion.  I am not a fan of extreme gore for gore’s sake (Saw and Hostel are examples) but if you can boil down characters losing something real from “gorrific” situations then that will add terror, in my opinion.  I’ve seen slit throats before onscreen (I’m so desensitized) but not quite like in this film which made me stop and think of the evil that exists in the world today.  While “High Tension” works for me overall, there are plenty of flaws in the film, the top of the list being a stagnant second act and as the movie progresses confusing the audience the longer it’s watched.

College friends Marie (Cecile De France) and Alexia (Maiwenn Le Besco) drive to the rural south of France to study at Alexia’s parent’s farm for the weekend.  In the middle of the night, the family is terrorized by a nameless sadistic truck driver who attacks without any warning or reason.  Director Alejandre Aja wickedly capitalizes on the fear of the French redneck south just as American films do, such as in “Deliverance”.  Aja keeps the camera on the relentless killer and when he doesn’t, a baseball cap shadows his greasy husky skin.   The beautiful actress Cecile De France is the film’s best asset as she tightropes the film’s eroticism with being a fighter.  I may not love “High Tension” but I did like it and it’s worth putting up high on your horror-to-watch list.

Wednesday
Oct272010

H.R.T.W. DAY 3: Germany

HORROR ‘ROUND THE WORLD  
DAY 3: Germany
“Vampyr” (1931)
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer
Starring Julian West
Running Time 75 Minutes
3.5 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

At first glance you might not think a 1931 black and white German horror film would be able to translate into any real scares in today’s torture porn craving audience.  I’ll admit it took me a second to get into this oldie but foggy goodie, but let me answer the previous sentence with a resounding Aber Ja (yes, indeed)!   Now “Vampyr” may not have made it tough for me to get to sleep and there weren’t many jolts to the system but it’s hard to argue the off-setting mood created.  Renowned German director Carl Theodor Dreyer, who is known for “The Passion of Joan of Arc” (1928), “Day of Wrath” (1943), and “Gertrud” (1964), creates an eerie film about the occult lore of demon vampires that plays like a hazy nightmare you can’t wake up from.  This murky story keeps you off-balance by not always moving linear and the few lines that are spoken in Dreyer’s first talkie are a gift of unease.  

The film’s financier, Julian West, plays the doe-eyed Allan Grey who is consumed with a curiosity for the supernatural.  Allan receives a package from an old man that’s labeled “do no open until my death”. When the old man is murdered, Allan opens the package to find a book titled “The History of  Vampire.”  Quickly Allan is in way over his head, drifting to a remote village where the undead linger.  Dreyer conveys a real sense of dread with some impressive camera work that reaches a high when Allan dreams of himself inside a coffin watching upside down as the world moves by.  “Vampyr” is an otherworldly tale done without the clichés of gore and if you see fit to let it in, it might take a bite out of you.  It did me.  

Country: Germany
My Favorite Scene: The one where Allan is in the coffin.

Tuesday
Oct262010

H.R.T.W. DAY 2: Norway

HORROR ‘ROUND THE WORLD  
DAY 2: Norway
“Dead Snow” (2009)
Directed by Tommy Wirkowla
Starring Vegar Hoel, Charlotte Frogner
Running Time 91 Minutes, Rated R
4 Mitch’s out of 5
Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com

Two things I really hate; zombies and Nazis.  Director Tommy Wirkowla gives us both, with a twist on the frequently maligned horror  zombie genre by combining the two evils in this wonderfully bloody Norwegian treat.  When a group of young medical students head up to a remote cabin in the woods for some good times, a dark evil is about to be unearthed upon them.  Stop me if you’ve heard this one before because the all-knowing-horror-buff-movie-nerd-character Erlend, played by Jeppe Laursen, did and she/he makes references to the similar films that share their setting.  That dark evil is, of course, none other than the infamous Col. Herzog and his group of zombie Nazi soldiers that have come back to protect their stolen gold that the young premeds have stumbled upon.  


Once the Nazi zombies are in full effect, this film moves fast and furious in blood-splattering perfection with laugh out loud humor to boot.  “Dead Snow” makes a blunt homage to its predecessors almost to a fault, as it borrows plenty and maybe a bit too much from Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead”.  “Dead Snow” gets better as it goes along, while it revels in its absurdity which includes a great scene of one of the students hanging over a cliff holding onto one of the Nazi zombie’s intestines for dear life.  Wirkowla gets the most out of his low budget with great make-up and B-spectacular zombie effects.  So make a cup of cocoa, cozy up to the fire, don’t be a Nazi or a zombie, and pop in “Dead Snow”.

Country: Norway
Number of Deaths: 8 people, countless Nazi zombies and 1 crow.
My Favorite Scene: The one where a guy hangs from a Nazi zombies intestines.