Saturday, April 26, 2014

Blog Announcement/April Quick Picks and Pans

Tomorrow, my family and I will be hitting the road for the next couple weeks on a much-needed vacation, and by default, Cinematic Catharsis will be taking a little vacation as well.  I might have a not-so-surprise update in the next day or so, however, regarding my recent guest appearance on the ForgottenFilmcast, if time and technology allows.  My followers on Twitter might also notice a few sporadic updates here and there, so stay tuned.

There’s no rest for the wicked, as I intend to hit the ground running when I get back.  Watch for my entry in The Great Katherine Hepburn Blogathon in May, sponsored by Margaret Perry, followed by the Snoopathon in June, hosted by Fritzi of Movies Silently.  In conjunction with the second blogathon, I will also be running a month-long retrospective of German cinema – Germany Month!

Until then, I hope wherever you are, you find some time to recoup, relax with your loved ones, and stop to smell the flowers.

This month’s quick picks and pans…

Brand Upon the Brain! A Remembrance in 12 Chapters (2006) This oddity from director/co-writer Guy Maddin is presented in the style of an old silent film, with some modern flourishes thrown in.  Isabella Rossellini lends her extraordinary voice as the over-the-top narrator.  The main character is a fictional version of Maddin (Sullivan Brown and Erik Steffen Maahs play younger and older versions, respectively), who revisits his traumatic past.  As he walks through the old lighthouse that served as his childhood home, we’re introduced to his amorous sister, repressive mother and mad scientist father, who collects “nectar” from the brains of orphans (don’t ask).  The film’s dreamlike, disorienting style recalls works of German expressionism such as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Filled with more Freudian imagery than you can wave a cigar at, Brand Upon the Brain toys with themes of lost youth, forbidden love and repressed memories. From a narrative perspective, Maddin’s film doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, but what dreams do?  It’s fascinating to look at, and a memorable cinematic experience.

Rating: *** ½.  Available on DVD

Doomsday (2008) Writer/director Neil Marshall’s derivative mix of Mad Max, Escape from New York and various medieval tales shouldn’t work, but somehow does.  The cast includes Rhona Mitra as Eden Sinclair, a one-woman army, Bob Hoskins as her cynical boss, and Malcolm McDowell as a doctor turned despot.  When a viruscontained behind a massive wall begins to creep into England, Sinclair is sent in to the quarantined Scottish countryside to find the cure.  You might want to give your brain a rest with this one.  Doomsday is loud, dumb and whole lot of fun, if you don’t take it too seriously.

Rating: ***.  Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Here Comes the Devil (aka: Ahí Va el Diablo) (2012) This bizarre Mexican horror movie from writer/director Adrián García Bogliano recalls Picnic at Hanging Rock, with its theme of a malevolent, mystical energy residing in a natural setting.  During a family getaway, a brother and sister become lost while exploring a rocky hillside.  They return to their parents the next day, but something about them seems off.  The parents’ quest to determine what happened during those lost hours plunges them into increasingly disturbing territory.  Despite a meandering plot, and an extraneous opening scene, the film manages to evoke some genuine chills, and the climax is likely to make you squirm. 

Rating: ***.  Available on Blu-ray, DVD and Netflix Streaming

Crimewave (1985) With the creative team of Sam Raimi (director/co-writer) and Joel and Ethan Cohen (co-writers), it’s hard to imagine their film noir-esque comedy, cobbled together from ‘40s potboilers and stale Three Stooges routines, would be anything but exceptional, but not so fast.  This stylish but hollow exercise is a big disappointment, proving the sum is sometimes less than its constituent parts.  The plotless film relies on unfunny gags and exaggerated acting in place of character development and the story seems like a collage of mismatched ideas.  To its credit, Crimewave features some nice set pieces, (including a series of multi-colored doorways that collapse like a row of dominos) and co-producer Bruce Campbell breathes some life into the film in a supporting role as a deadbeat lothario, but even he can’t save this mess of a movie.  The whole exercise isn’t nearly as clever or humorous as it wants to be, and needless to say, Raimi and the Cohens went on to do better things on their own.

Rating: **.  Available on Blu-ray and DVD


  1. Have a great vacation Barry. You deserve it. I have seen Brand Upon the Brain, but could not get through it. I think I lasted a whole 35 minutes before I stopped it. Should I have gone on? I am curious to check out Crimewave. I love seeing filmmakers I like have a failure. You get to see where they began.

  2. Thanks, Vern! Having a great time, so far. :) Maddin is definitely a love it or hate it director,so I don't blame you. As far as Crimewave goes, it's worth a look for what might have been.