August Film Wrap Up

I saw six pretty good films in August. Here’s what I thought of them.

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Time After Time (1979) Movie Review

This was a much more successful, and enjoyable experience of the Malcolm McDowell double feature I went to in June.

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In Time After Time Malcolm McDowell plays H.G. Wells, who has created a time machine that Jack the Ripper uses to evade capture. Wells must then pursue the serial killer across time, eventually arriving in San Francisco in the 1970s. The film also stars David Warner, and Mary Steenburgen, to whom McDowell was married. He actually made a very sweet comment during the Q&A that his favorite memory from filming was meeting and falling in love with his now ex-wife.


 


This film was a lot of fun to watch. The idea of H.G. Wells hunting Jack the Ripper is interesting enough on its own, adding in the time travel element kicks it up a notch. It was great to see these two characters react so differently to the new time period, and I thought both actors were good. McDowell was incredibly charming as the slightly bumbling but earnest Wells, and Warner was cool and calculating as Stevenson. Steenburgen was such a bright presence any time she was on screen and you could practically feel the chemistry between her and McDowell radiating off the screen.

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Seeing McDowell as H.G. Wells was a fascinating experience because I’m so used to him in darker, more disturbing roles. Here he got to play innocent and earnest, and I have to say he was quite convincing on both accounts. I highly enjoyed the film, and was glad that it was the second of the double feature as it allowed me to end the night on a high note.


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WonderCon Haul

Finally got my WonderCon haul posted. I got a lot of cool stuff. Check out what I got in the video below:

 

Artists:

Al Abbazia
https://www.facebook.com/theartofalabbazia/

Joey Spiotto
http://www.jo3bot.com

Shelly Cunningham Jennings
https://www.wildforestdog.com

Brandon Kenney
https://brandonkenney.com

Denae Frazier
https://www.denaefrazierstudios.com

Ann Shen
http://www.ann-shen.com

Michi Doan
https://michidoan.com

D.I.Y. Entertainment (my friend’s book)
diyentertainment.net

Jeff Victor
https://www.jeffvictor.com

Cat People (1982) Movie Review

Back in June I went to a double feature of this film and Time After Time, both of which star Malcolm McDowell. He was at the screening, and spoke for about an hour between the films about his experiences making them. He had some great stories and was energetic and highly entertaining.

I’ll be honest, this was a weird film. I’m not quite sure how I feel about it even two months later. I liked some of the stylization choices, like the opening sequence in the desert and the David Bowie theme song.

 

 

The rest of the film is bizarre. A young woman discovering her own sexual awakening is the reincarnation of another woman from a different time. This woman and her brother have lived with an ancient curse that involves turning into panthers when they are too sexually charged. Like I said, it’s weird. It’s also very 80s despite being a remake of 1942 French film (which also explains a lot).

I thought all of the performances were pretty good, and as I mentioned the style of the film was pretty cool but the overall idea just felt hokey. Perhaps the French version is better but this one felt dated in a lot of ways and I just couldn’t get past the whole turning into panthers thing.

Netflix Movie Review: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile

An interesting take on the Ted Bundy story, this was well acted and effective in its tone and messaging. Rather than focus on the crimes, this film is all about the trial and events surrounding Bundy’s captures. There is more emphasis put on the impact of these events on his girlfriend. This shift in focus allows for heartier performances from the two leads, Zac Efron and Lily Collins.

Both Efron and Collins give good, solid performances. Collins can sometimes lean toward the melodramatic but she is convincing as the emotionally abused, naive Liz Kendall. It is Efron, however, that steals every scene he is in. Obviously he is the focus of the film but he deserves the credit. He is egotistical but charming, and he is incredibly delusional. Efron fully immersed himself in this role, and the result is a captivating performance that carries the film.

While the performances are good, the pacing doesn’t always work. Whereas The Deliberate Stranger did a thorough if not necessarily exciting job of laying out a detailed timeline of Bundy’s attacks, this film jumps around to try and hit certain “highlights,” so to speak. It plays more with style rather than paying detailed attention to accuracy. As such, it is an interesting experience in entertainment but not as any sort of historical commentary. The editing choices were also a bit odd at times. Again, I think this was a style choice that ended up making some things a bit hard to follow, if not pretty or interesting to look at.

One of the most disturbing aspects of the film are the reactions from people during Bundy’s trial, and his “celebrity” status. The film doesn’t shy away from casting Efron as Bundy in a good light but it also makes a point to contrast his charming personality with the violence of his behavior. Thus when his fans show up at the trial, they are not presented in a flattering manner.

Despite some pacing and editing issues, as a performance piece, and commentary on murder obsession culture, I thought the film was effective and insightful.

Netflix Movie Review: The Highwaymen

Finally sat down to watch this a few months ago and really enjoyed it. I can’t believe Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson never worked together before. Their chemistry was great, and one of the best things about the film.

This, of course, tells the story of the two lawmen that eventually tracked down and killed Bonnie and Clyde. It follows both of them as they come out of retirement, and piece together when and how to catch the infamous duo.

The movie looked fantastic, which is almost a negative thing because I didn’t get a chance to see this in theaters. I know it had a limited release but I never saw any showings for it, and thus was stuck watching it on my TV at home. So, while it looked good, I bet it would have looked even better on a bigger screen. This is one of my frustrations with Netflix films.

The story was told in an intriguing fashion, with the messaging and deeper themes well established without beating you over the head. This film definitely has an opinion on the celebrity status of the two criminals, and I think there were a couple of effective moments that drive that point home. One choice made was that the reveal of Bonnie and Clyde only happens at the end of the film. By not showing them earlier, the message about destructive criminal celebrity is made more effective. The film aims to not glorify them the way history has. These two were killers, and many people try to make them out to be Robin Hood type characters when they weren’t. This film, rather than glorify their violent history turns the lens quite literally on their victims, and the viciousness of their crimes.

The film is rather long. It meanders frequently, and although I mentioned it looks great, we do get maybe one too many wide shots of open country. Sometimes the slow pacing allows for a a bit of character development and a good performance piece but it definitely could have chopped off fifteen to twenty minutes.

Overall, this was a solid film. It’s low on action, strong on story and performances. Under lesser performers the film would have felt dragged down due to the deliberate pacing. It is thanks to Harrelson and Costner, who are heavy weights more than capable of carrying this film, that it works as well as it does.