Movie Review: OPERATION AVALANCHE – 60s-set conspiracy thriller, heavy on period detail, but light on drama

operation_avalanche

If I’d never had Operation Avalanche recommended to me by an old friend, chances are I might never have watched it.  I’d seen some promotional materials for it, even read the synopsis early last year before it was released by Lionsgate, but a found-footage conspiracy drama about the faking of the first moon landing just didn’t grab me.  Well, cut to January 16, 2017, and I’ve just watched it.  There are a few things to like, but it does fall short of being a worthwhile 80 minutes.

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Movie Review: EVEREST – an eye opening look at 1996’s tragic descent from the summit

everest

Everest, directed by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur (Contraband, 2 Guns), and written by William Nicholson (Unbroken) and Simon Beaufoy (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) tells the true story of the ill-fated 1996 attempt to ascend Mount Everest that saw multiple commercial guided tours fall victim to a blizzard during the descent.  The movie is based on the book Left For Dead: My Journey Home From Everest by Beck Weathers, a Texan climber who survived the ordeal, but in doing so lost half an arm, all the fingers on the other hand, and the tip of his nose to extreme frostbite.  Weathers is played by Josh Brolin here, part of an ensemble cast that also includes Jason Clarke (Terminator: Genisys), who plays Rob Hall and Jake Gyllenhaal (Nocturnal Animals), who plays Scott Fischer.

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Movie Review: NOCTURNAL ANIMALS – an absorbing, frustrating dark drama with a terrific Michael Shannon performance at its core.

nocturnal-animals

The new year is only two weeks old, but Nocturnal Animals is likely going to make my top 5 movies of 2017.  I saw this a couple of days ago on my birthday, a few weeks after being disappointed that it had already left the major theater chains here in Minnesota around Christmas, and I left the movie impressed.  It’s hard to ignore a movie with a cast boasting Jake Gyllenhaal (Enemy), Amy Adams (Arrival), and Michael Shannon (Midnight Special), and even though I still haven’t seen Tom Ford’s first movie, A Single Man,  I remembered the good buzz around it.  On the strength of this sophomore effort, I’ll move it up the queue.

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Movie Review: HOWARD LOVECRAFT AND THE FROZEN KINGDOM falls short of appealing to anyone.

howardlovecraft_poster

I’m a self-proclaimed disciple of H.P. Lovecraft, I have to say.  Ever since my English teacher introduced me to The Strange Case of Charles Dexter Ward when I was around 12, I’ve been a fan.  His work is a huge influence on my own writing, even though I’ve never written anything that remotely resembles his work.  I also feel somewhat protective of his writing and his concepts, which most notably include the “Cthulhu Mythos”.  I tend to feel aggrieved when I see how his most famous creation has become assimilated into mass-produced pop culture – Cthulhu plushies and the like (but I think Lovecraft would have secretly loved all of this) – and the name Cthulhu tossed around by people who have most never read a word of Lovecraft’s work.  Even those who have read Lovecraft and create works influenced by him, can barely get past the pastiche-homage of tentacled monsters in dark New England towns.  No, to honour Lovecraft is not rip him off, it’s to understand the context of his work and having done that, create new works of your own that don’t slavishly follow a Cthulhu gameplan.  This explains why I watched Howard Lovecraft and the Frozen Kingdom.

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Movie Review: BLAIR WITCH – pointless sequel comes too late, and doesn’t add anything new.

blair

I’m probably not the only person on Earth to wonder why someone thought it would be a great idea to make another sequel to seminal horror movie The Blair Witch Project, especially given that 1/ the original movie was 17 years old when this sequel was released, and 2/ Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2, was a bad movie rushed to capitalize on the success of the original, and failed badly both critically and commercially.  As of me writing this (January 8, 2017), Blair Witch has a worldwide gross of $45M on a $5M budget, making it more successful than Book of Shadows on paper, but the harsh reality is that in terms of present value of money, and ticket prices outstripping inflation, Blair Witch took in far less money from the public.  It may have made a decent profit, but it failed to catch the attention of the public at large.

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Movie Review: THE SIGNAL – Sci Fi with a story too ambitious for its budget

thesignal

After watching The Signal, I was left with much the same feeling of frustration I had with Shane Carruth’s Upstream Color, with the only real difference being that I didn’t hate the latter.  What these movies had in common for me was a self-indulgent disregard for the audience.  I’ve been watching movies long enough to understand and appreciate filmmakers that don’t spoonfeed the audience what their movies are about, and I think I have a good nose for self-indulgence in movies, which I define as movies that throw a lot of disparate elements into the screenwriting blender, except for a payoff that’s either meaningful or logical.

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Movie Review: TRAIN TO BUSAN – Korean zombie movie entertains, but doesn’t innovate

busanhaeng

I will admit that I’m burnt out on zombies – I have been for a while, long before they transitioned into pop culture with (arguably) the success of Shaun of the Dead – but likely I’m not alone.  It’s the go-to monster for low budget crap on Netflix, and hundreds of badly written “post apocalyptic” novels on Amazon.  Gone are the days – long gone – when the zombie was used as a metaphor for the mindless hordes of us, where the shuffling, brain dead hordes said, or tried to say, something about our propensity for herd mentality and mass consumerism.  Nope, all gone, swept away under a tidal wave of pop culture of, ironically, brain dead depictions of zombies.  Now you’re more or less likely to see them used either as backdrops (The Walking Dead) or rampaging groups of chase/eat machines (28 Days Later, World War Z).

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