Sympathy – review

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Sympathy, by first time director Andrew Moorman, is a very rare film in the indie ranks where a director takes a small budget and instead of trying to over-do things, he takes what he has and makes a solid film with it. It’s admirable to see a young director accept the limitations he was given and to make the best of them, instead of trying to prove that they can do anything they want (and more often than not failing miserably). There is something to be said about keeping things simple, and that is certainly what Sympathy does.

A young woman is held captive by a ruthless bank robber who is holding her hostage as he plans his escape. As a game of cat and mouse plays out between the two though a third participant enters, a convict who has no qualms with killing either or both of them if they don’t do just what he says. Suddenly this is not just a game of cat and mouse but a game of life and death, and one which each person has their own Trump card which they are waiting to play. All three of them have secrets they are keeping from the others, bt in the end, the person with the darkest secret may be the one who leaves with their life.

A very well done film, this is a movie that just as easily could been a play. Filmed and performed on one set, the film then puts the success or failure on the shoulders of the actors and the script. The script is very good, if over-written at times, and the acting matches it, again, if over-acted from time to time. The direction is very good and shows a lot of flare but not so many tricks as to distract. The big qualm I have here is that the film plays long and comes very near to wearing out its welcome. There are so many crosses, tricks and double crosses that the movie just feels too long. Some may not feel that way but I felt the length of the film heavily.

An all around solid effort and definitely worth a look for those with a notion. Solid release, and a very well done thriller.

7 out of 10

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Red Sands – review

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The heck of the thing with Genie’s (or Djinn if you wanna be correct about things) is that no one seems to get the poor fella’s right. I mean, the closest that I can think of is maybe The Wishmaster, which, while not a good film or series, does do right by them, sorta. I mean, the thing about Djinn are that they are jerks, essentially. They are dark spirits who hate humans, clear and simple, and from that we put them into lamps and made them fun loving wish-dealers. Ah, but then comes a movie like Red Sands, which takes us to the wonderful land of the Djinn and gives us a much truer tale to the nature and temperament of these ancient boogey-men.

During a military excursion in the Middle East, several American personnel are stationed to watch over a road that has become a haven for snipers. Despite being unable to find the road, the personnel reluctantly take the assignment in stride but with trepidation as they settle into an abandoned home. As the desert begins to exert its control on them with shifts in wind and weather, they begin to feel the malevolent presence of something that is watching them. Suddenly these soldiers are being hunted by a creature that does not just hide in the shadows but is the shadow itself, and, having been freed of its prison, is now in search of victims once more. Unless the soldiers can work together and overcome the trickery of the Djinn, none of them will make it back alive.

An interesting, if lackluster film, this was similar in ways to the same director’s much better Dead Birds, which also pitted people against a supernatural enemy in a spooky locale. The premise is pretty fun, though the actors, while decent, don’t bring anything new to their roles. This is a film where you need the actors to really step it up and, with nominal performances, and mediocre writing, it just doesn’t really do much. The scares are there, but the Djinn is never a real character. It is, in a way, but we never get more than shades of what it can do, so the film plays out as a ghost story. As a ghost story it’s ok, and the tension is certainly there, but as much work as they put into making this a credible threat, you never get a real feel for what IT is. The film is well made, and is leagues above the usual direct to video fare, and this is a solid filmmaker, but this just doesn’t come together completely. This is a quiet horror film that needed to be a little louder, perhaps. Worth checking out, especially for free on Netflix if you run across it there, but not worth going out of your way to see.

6 out of 10

Movie Sign

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So I am conflicted. I cannot tell if it’s the movie industry I hate, or the movie-going public. I can’t decide because I am not sure who to blame for the mediocrity both in theaters and at home, but worse, to me, is the mediocrity that comes before it all. Movie history goes in cycles, goes in patterns, and every so often it will do that then work itself out. Right now we’re in a pattern where remakes of 1980s films are all the rage. Maybe it’s our current current obsession with that decade and everything about it (and I freely admit that I am a sucker for ’80s music) that is fueling this but eventually it will end. Remakes won’t end, but the obsession with the era will. And probably sooner than we think. That isn’t my problem right now though, no, my problem lies with the fact that movie trailers are utterly awful now.

Why, you may ask, am I so upset about movie trailers?

Don’t you hate going to see a movie, you get all snuggled into your seat, get all set for what will hopefully be something awesome and then the pre-movie fun begins and the trailers suck. But they don’t just suck but are awful, and worse than awful, they give away the entire movie. I loathe that. I realize I am not like everyone and  have seen LOADS of movies, loads and loads of movies, and as such, I can regularly guess how a plot will go or how a story will play out. That isn’t a problem with movies so much as a fact that I am a writer who loves movies. What I hate though is when the biggest moments, scares, laughs, and too much of the plot is released in a trailer. I hate watching a trailer, then going to the movie and already knowing what is going to happen. The perfect example I have of this comes after a weekend spent at the drive-in. I went with friends to see A Nightmare on Elm Street and Clash of the Titans and both films were ruined by their advertising. With Nightmare they give away scares in the trailer that, when the moment comes in the film, you are not scared. You know what is going to happen. with Clash it was the stupid posters that gave it away. So here’s Perseus, standing all majestic with lens flare and all and there he is holding Medusa’s head aloft. Well, hmm, sorta kills the suspense of the movie when you know he gets the one weapon he can wield against the Kraken, doesn’t it? Sorta kills the whole sequence where he has to go FIGHT Medusa when you know that he ends up with her head. I mean, have we become so simple that we cannot get that a trailer HINTS at what a movie is, gives us teases of what it has to offer but doesn’t reveal it? It’s like going to see a stripper that starts nude and puts clothes on as they dance (which is the future, I know it). Where is the subtlety? Where is the mystery? Do we really need the movie ruined so we safely know what we are going into?

How many of us have fallen in love with movies that were only a mystery when we went in? How many times have we had the pure joy of seeing an un-spoiled film? Sure, some people do seek this stuff out, but not all of us do. And it comes down to reviewers as well, who feel compelled to reveal everything about a movie in order to look at its entrails and see if it was any good, and why. There a place for that, but it should be really spelled out that it is that sort of review, but really, once a movie is spoiled, it’s spoiled. The classic example with trailers is Stargate, where the explosive finale was shown in the trailer. What? Who does this?

It is as if we have all gotten lazier and stupider and not only do we not want movies that challenge us, but we don’t want movies that thrill us or tease us any longer. We want everything spoon fed to us so that we don’t have too struggle much. It’s to cry.

For people like me, the fun of seeing a trailer and obsessing over that first teaser, then the full trailer, then the final trailer, is what we live for, We live for the lead up to what we  hope is an awesome movie experience. All too often though the movies are ruined by clumsy trailers that give away far too much, far too soon.

Let us make the discoveries ourselves.

Let us find the secrets.

Give us that much.

I can say this, so far, Iron Man 2 has done very well to not reveal too much of what is going on in the film. Sure, you can piece things together but I hadn’t realized some of the things in-store for me until I saw a review that mentioned some aspects I had not yet seen. And that is fun. When a trailer works it makes the film it supports so much stronger, and for me, the art of cutting trailers is an all but dying one, and that’s a shame. Sure, we may always have the trailers but the secrets of the films they support are quickly being leaked well in advance, and it isn’t always pirates or reviewers doing the leaking, and that’s a shame.