Category: Movies

Voice from the Stone

 

My main complaint with modern horror is that so much of it substitutes sound and fury for genuine suspense. Rather than build tension, these movies assault the senses with loud noise, frenzied camerawork, and gore. But there is an opposite extreme, exemplified by Voice from the Stone, in which the burn is so slow that it induces boredom.

Emilia Clarke looks lovely as a nurse employed by a grieving widower to look after his disturbed young son at their Italian estate, which, like Clarke, is lovingly photographed. But the first hour is so understated and muted that by the time things finally start to happen in the third act, I was nearly comatose. Release: 2017 Grade: C-

 

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Aval

 

It’s tempting to write off Aval (English title: The House Next Door), India’s homage to Hollywood horror classics like The Exorcist. Much of the dialogue (a peculiar mix of Indian languages and English) and relationships evoke corny melodramas from the 1950s. At some point the story, in which a doctor and his wife learn that someone in their Himalayan neighborhood is possessed, stops making a lot of sense, and a few scenes are unintentionally funny.

However … there’s no question that several of director Milind Rau’s set pieces are chilling, with clever camerawork and stunning visuals. Also in its favor: the movie is consistently entertaining. Release: 2017  Grade: B+

 

**

 

The Babysitter

grouchyeditor.com Babysitter

 

A 12-year-old boy discovers that his oh-so-hot babysitter is actually a psychotic devil worshipper in this Netflix horror-comedy that starts out silly and grows progressively more ridiculous. But no worries: It’s meant to be silly, it’s well-produced, and it’s often amusing. Oh, and Samara Weaving gives a killer performance as the blonde from hell. Release: 2017  Grade: B+

 

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Voyeur

grouchyeditor.com Voyeur

 

This might be one case where the movie is better than the book. Famed journalist Gay Talese’s nonfiction account of a Colorado Peeping Tom was often a repetitious slog through the mind (and journal) of Gerald Foos, a motel owner who for years spied on unsuspecting guests through ceiling vents and then recorded his observations.

This documentary, on the other hand, is less about peeping and more about two old men who are both preoccupied with how they are and will be perceived by the rest of us. The juxtaposition of the proud and meticulous Talese with his partner in crime, the alternately insecure and self-aggrandizing Foos, as they strive to publish Foos’s perverse tale is an often-fascinating look at fame – and infamy – in America. Release: 2017 Grade: B+

 

**

 

Nocturama

grouchyeditor.com Nocturama

 

Nocturama is stylish, beautifully shot, and has several scenes that are truly harrowing. But too bad the editor wasn’t in charge of things, because the movie also has a lot of sequences that drag on needlessly – especially during the first hour. Writer-director Bertrand Bonello’s premise is a good one: A group of disaffected young people are persuaded to plant bombs on the streets of Paris, and then hide out in an upscale department store while all hell breaks loose in the city. But in that first hour, Bonello’s camera dwells on every corner the kids pass, every elevator they use, and every subway change they make on their way to planting the bombs. Yet the rest of the film is a chilling portrait of what could come next in the form of terrorism.  Release: 2016 Grade: B+

 

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Spielberg

 

This retrospective about the famed filmmaker often resembles DVD commentary tracks in which everyone involved with a movie kisses the director’s ass. Of course, in this case the director is worthy of much praise, but still … it gets old.

Speaking of old, maybe it’s my age and nostalgia for my misspent youth, but I’ve always preferred early, “immature” Spielberg to later, “mature” Spielberg. Yes, his more-adult dramas are well done, but other directors can do that. Conversely, no one’s been able to match the excitement of Spielberg’s early roller-coaster rides. Release: 2017  Grade: B

 

**

 

The Autopsy of Jane Doe

 

I suspect The Autopsy of Jane Doe looked a bit ridiculous on paper. Much of the story is either far-fetched or horror-movie cliché. But when you have a talented director (Andre Ovredal), a suitably spooky setting, and an old pro like Brian Cox as your star, you can turn a so-so screenplay into something special – something genuinely creepy and suspenseful. Cox and Emile Hirsch play father and son coroners who spend one terror-filled night dissecting a beautiful corpse (Olwen Kelly). Generally, I’m not a fan of gore, and this movie has plenty, but hey, it is about an autopsy. Release: 2016 Grade: B+

 

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Harvey Weinstein gets in trouble with the starlets. George Bush gets in trouble with his “David Cop-a-Feel” routine. But Howard Stern, the King of All Sexual Harassment, never seems to get in trouble.

Stern has been copping feels and scandalizing women for as long as I can remember. The difference between Howard and Harvey and George? Somehow, the “shock jock” persuades his female guests that a little bare-bottomed humiliation is their idea.

And their husbands and boyfriends are just as game and/or gullible, offering up their ladies to Howard’s altar of ass.

Stern’s 1992 video Butt Bongo Fiesta is a monument to bad taste, with cringe-worthy racism, misogyny, and homophobia all competing for attention. Not to mention scatological humor. Much of the video is, well, unwatchable. But I do like the parts presented below.

(The quality isn’t great on these clips, but hey, they are lifted from an ancient, hard-to-find VHS tape, and so ….)

 

Marie

 

 

Marie told Howard that she is a housewife and a real estate developer. She and her spouse “represent your more middle-of-the-road American couple,” she claimed, but Howard was skeptical. “I bet you do,” he said.

The kinky housewife revealed that she and hubby sometimes enjoy spanking sessions. For this video, Howard got to join the fun.

 

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In these screen captures, Howard nearly tongues a piece of ass. Hubby doesn’t mind. Wifey seems not to notice.

 

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The cameraman zooms in so that viewers can enjoy a close-up of Marie’s bare — and quite red — cheeks:

 

 

We’re not sure if Marie had an orgasm during her spanking session. It seems like a possibility. Here is the video:

 

Stacy

 

 

Stacy was a 21-year-old blonde whose long-haired boyfriend wanted to bongo her butt for Howard.

Below, Howard takes a peek at Stacy’s blonde bush and persuades her to remove her g-string:

 

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Howard examined Stacy’s bare backside and quipped, “My goodness — anybody want a roast-beef sandwich?”

 

 

Stacy’s video:

 

 

Jessica

 

 

Jessica Hahn achieved infamy when her sex scandal with televangelist Jim Bakker made headlines in 1987. The former church secretary then prolonged her 15 minutes of fame by debasing herself for Howard and by posing, naturally, for Playboy magazine (below).

 

 

 

In the video below, Ms. Hahn spreads her limbs for a sketch in Butt Bongo Fiesta:

 

 

And here she is in a segment about the vagina. Notice how the cameraman cannot resist zooming in on hers.

 

 

If you’d like to watch the entire video – not exactly recommended – it can be found here or here on YouTube.

 

 

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The Survivalist

 

Like the similar-themed apocalyptic thriller The Road, The Survivalist is relentlessly grim. A bearded hermit lives in the woods, planting seeds and arranging tin cans as a primitive alarm system to warn him of potential marauders. Nothing much happens in his Robinson Crusoe existence until one fateful day when two women appear at his cabin. This is a well-made film, well-directed and well-acted, and despite an unhurried pace it’s generally absorbing. But that sluggish pace and the pervasive gloom of the story, while realistic, also produce a movie that at times feels like an endurance test. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

**

 

El Bar

 

Unlike The Survivalist, The Bar is fast-paced, infused with humor, and over the top. After two men are inexplicably mowed down outside the door of a humble Madrid café, a small group of customers find themselves trapped inside. Is there a sniper in a nearby building? Are there more targets in their midst? And why have the two corpses been dragged away? It’s a fun premise, and Alex de la Iglesia directs the action with gusto. But by the time star Blanca Suarez gets stuck in a drainage hole because her boobs are too big to slide through the opening (below), The Bar becomes downright silly. Release: 2017 Grade: B-

 

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                                                          How not to slip through a drainage hole

 

**

 

Life

grouchyeditor.com Life

 

Life won’t win any awards for originality, but hey, if you’re going to copy, at least this movie copies from the best. We get bits of Gravity, bits of Predator, and a whole lot of Alien. If you like those science-fiction/horror classics, you will likely enjoy Life, which borrows and expands on several of its predecessors’ best ideas. The plot: Jake Gyllenhaal and a small group of fellow astronauts must destroy a hostile alien organism before it makes its way to Earth – with or without the astronauts. Sound familiar? I will say this: For a movie that steals so blatantly from the classics, Life’s twist ending is both original and clever. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

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We don’t know if these daring dads and their darling daughters are A) artistically uninhibited; B) sexually perverted; or C) some combination of the above, but we do know that it’s not every day that papa films his progeny in the buff — and then shares the lust-provoking results with the world.

 

Katrine Boorman & director John Boorman

 

 

“A lot of people ask me, well, ‘How did you feel about directing your daughter being raped?’ Well, she wasn’t being raped of course. It was just a scene. She didn’t mind, and nor did I.” – John Boorman on Excalibur’s director’s commentary

 

 

“I’ve always said that once you’ve been raped by Gabriel Byrne and Corin Redgrave in armor, watched by your father, you’ll never look back.” – Katrine Boorman in The Independent

 

 

“So I was doing the scene with John Boorman’s daughter Katrine, who was playing my wife, and I was supposed to make love to her in quite a violent fashion. Anyway, I made love to Katrine in the wide shot, doing my grunting and groaning and all those medieval sexual shenanigans. Then they came in for the close shot.”– Gabriel Byrne. 

Byrne’s turn humping Katrine was apparently left on the cutting-room floor; in the shots reproduced here, that’s Redgrave having his way with Boorman’s daughter.

 

 

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Katrine didn’t just bare her breasts for daddy when she was 23; she went topless again at age 39 in 1997’s Le Bonheur est un mensonge (above left). In 2012, Katrine got behind the camera to make a documentary about her famous family called Me and Me Dad. Below, the infamous pumping scene from Excalibur:

 

Asia Argento & director Dario Argento

 

 

“Argento began performing for her father when she was a teenager, appearing in the nude as a 16-year-old in Trauma. She was also a rape victim in another of his films, The Stendhal Syndrome. Not surprisingly, these roles and their father-daughter relationship scandalized Italy. Argento has said that they are viewed in her native country like a real-life Addams Family – ghoulish and weird.” – New York Daily News

Now 41, Asia apparently still has a thing for older men. It was recently reported that she’s dating TV personality Anthony Bourdain, 61.

 

 “How’s this, dad?” Sixteeen-year-old Asia in Trauma.

 

“I never acted out of ambition; I acted to gain my father’s attention. It took a long time for him to notice me – I started when I was nine, and he only cast me when I was 16. And he only became my father when he was my director.” – Asia Argento in Filmmaker Magazine

 

Above and below, Asia in Dracula 3D

 

 

 

 In Dario’s The Phantom of the Opera, above and below, Asia gets taken doggie-style.

 

 

Alexis Vogel & photographer Ron Vogel

 

 

From Playboy’s February 1979 pictorial “Father Knows Best”:

“Photographer Ron Vogel has been snapping pictures of his daughter ever since she was a baby. At 21, she’s still his favorite model.”

 

 

“Over the years, Ron took ‘hundreds of pictures of Lexi in various states of undress. She has youth and vitality greater than most of the models I’ve worked with and her coloring is extraordinary; she has earthy tones and dark penetrating eyes.’”

Click on the thumbnail shots below for full-sized views of Ron’s full-frontal shots of Alexis.

 

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“Lexi: ‘I was a ham. I’d try to get my dad’s attention away from the models … I never had any problems posing that way for my father.’”

 

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“‘Posing nude for me throughout the years has made Lexi very free about herself,’ says Ron.”

 

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Split

grouchyeditor.com Split

 

Yes, James McAvoy is impressive playing a psycho with multiple personalities in M. Night Shyamalan’s latest “comeback” picture, the thriller Split. Problem is, McAvoy’s disturbing characters often seem like the only reason to keep watching the movie. The plot, in which McAvoy’s crazy man abducts three teenage girls and confines them in a basement, takes a decent premise and goes from clichéd to ridiculous to boring. Sorry, but this is hardly a return to form for Shyamalan.  Release: 2017 Grade: C

 

**

 

The Edge of Seventeen

grouchyeditor.com Edge

 

After enduring the first 20 minutes of this coming-of-age comedy-drama, I wasn’t sure if I could continue watching. Writer-director Kelly Fremon Craig’s script employed done-to-death voiceover narration, a la The Wonder Years, and worse, the protagonist was an incredibly bratty and vulgar teen. Eww. But then a funny thing happened on the way to study hall: The more our heroine was assailed by life’s slings and arrows, the more I grew to like her. By the end, I was cheering for her. Unlike so many teen-oriented movies, this one is smart, poignant, and boasts a winning performance from star Hailee Steinfeld. Release: 2016 Grade: B+

 

**

 

The Big Sick

 

The Big Sick has a lot going for it: It has heart, and it has endearing performances from writer-star Kumail Nanjiani and the supporting cast. Nanjiani plays a stand-up comedian of Pakistani descent who has to deal with his Muslim-traditional family and, after his WASP girlfriend lapses into a coma, her bickering parents.

Unfortunately, The Big Sick also has a Big Flaw. As the ailing girlfriend, Zoe Kazan is clearly intended to be spunky and lovable. But whenever her entitled, annoying character appeared on screen, I began to feel ill. Release: 2017 Grade: B-

 

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Toni Erdmann

grouchyeditor.com Erdmann

 

A bohemian music teacher attempts to reconnect with his uptight, unhappy, businesswoman daughter in Bucharest, and havoc ensues. The two leads (Sandra Huller and Peter Simonischek) have great chemistry, and there are some truly memorable scenes — including a (nude) birthday party to end all birthday parties. But writer-director Maren Ade’s otherwise impressive film has a near-fatal flaw: At 162 minutes, it’s much, much too long. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

**

 

Hell or High Water

grouchyeditor.com Hell High Water

 

Part Bonnie and Clyde, part old-time Western, Hell or High Water aims for realism, but in its quest to be taken seriously and hammer home some social commentary, it’s not as much fun as it could have been. That is, with the notable exception of crusty (of course) Jeff Bridges, who as a retiring lawman on the hunt for two bank robbers provides the movie’s only source of levity and wit. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

**

 

Get Out

grouchyeditor.com Get Out

 

A black photographer (Daniel Kaluuya) goes home with his white girlfriend (Allison Williams) to meet her parents, and he’s in for quite a weekend. For an hour or so, Get Out cleverly skewers upper-class white folk who feign empathy and understanding of race relations, but then writer-director Jordan Peele’s story sinks into horror-movie clichés. It’s a sharp and suspenseful ride – until that last act. Release: 2017 Grade: B

 

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Elle

grouchyeditor.com Elle

 

Elle begins with a brutal rape, but in its aftermath the victim does not go to the police, nor does she inform close friends. In fact, middle-aged Michele appears to be borderline blasé about the attack. When her rapist continues to stalk her, she almost seems to welcome it. But why? The answer unfolds gradually, and while it does Elle is a tantalizing mystery with a commanding performance by Isabelle Huppert. But once we learn the reason for her strange behavior – not to mention the identity of the rapist – the suspense of the film begins to lose its power. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

**

 

Passengers

grouchyeditor.com Passengers

 

Considered a critical and box-office failure, it’s true that Passengers is no science-fiction classic, but if you enjoy big-budget spaceship movies that look cool and keep the plot simple, as I do, you could do a lot worse. Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt play space tourists who get a much longer trip than they bargained for in this essentially simple, old-fashioned romance. Release: 2016 Grade: B

 

**

 

Her

grouchyeditor.com Her

 

At first, I was disinclined to like this drama about technology and our evolving connection to it. Protagonist Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) and his privileged pals seemed to embody every negative stereotype about West Coast liberals: living lives of economic ease, self-absorbed, and endlessly seeking emotional safe spaces. But Theodore’s growing relationship with his computer operating system, a husky-voiced charmer dubbed “Samantha,” tapped into some disturbing truths about the modern world. The result is a film that achieves something rare. It makes you think and it makes you feel. Release: 2013 Grade: A-

 

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