Monday, October 23, 2017


LADY MACBETH is not to be confused with the Shakespeare play MACBETH. Instead this film is based on the 1865 novel “Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District” written by Nikolai Leskov. The film itself judging by reviews is either one you love or hate. Place me somewhere in between in that confused and bored category.

The story revolves around Katherine (Florence Pugh), a young woman sold into marriage to a man twice her age named Alexander (Paul Hilton). From their wedding night forward he may sleep with her but never attempts to consummate their marriage. Instead he is a controlling tyrant who insists that she disrobe for him each night before bed and constantly tells her to stay indoors.

When an accident at one of the businesses his father owns calls him away, Katherine immediately begins to disobey his wishes, walking the grounds as she chooses. Her only companion is Anna (Naomi Ackie), a servant who obeys her master but answers to Katherine.

One day Katherine catches the farm hands have hoisted Anna up in a canvas saying they are trying to weigh her. Katherine forces them to let her down but is intrigued by what she saw. She tells the ringleader, a new groomsman named Sebastian (Cosmo Jarvis) to guess her weight upon which he lifts her in his arms.

Apparently this is all it takes as the two begin a shameful affair spending most of their nights in bed together. When her father-in-law returns he attempts to set her straight on how to behave. The end result is his being poisoned with mushrooms and then Katherine and Sebastian return to the carnal encounters. As a result of the master’s death Anna loses her ability to speak.

At some point the inevitable return of Alexander is bound to happen. What transpires from there is something best left for those who make the choice to watch the film. If you are not among that group then my suggestion would be to seek out other reviews as someone is bound to make it common knowledge.

For me the film was as detached from emotions as Katherine was when the film began. Taking place in 1865 it has that feel of a gothic romance novel without the gothic castle location or the actual romance. Instead that is replaced with lust and physical contact. Imagine Heathcliff and Catherine romping around in bed, remove the romance and you’ll get the idea of what I’m talking about here.

While watching it was easy to note the style being used with little or no music to interfere with the story. The dialogue is kept to short sentences when used. The d├ęcor is true to the time period with little extras to be found in the house and the costuming is the same. This might lend itself to realism but it also tends to add to the boredom as well.

The performances are there with little that is exceptional. Of the characters it is Pugh as Katherine that has the most to offer here but her outlook and behavior is so dour that the changes in her personality are unexceptional. The change from purchased wife with a frigid husband to full on adulterous tramp is hard to believe. Those that love the film view this as an attempt at combating the patriarchal system of the time, a liberation of the female character from her surroundings. I say if you view it that way then you’re more pretentious than you should be.

I’ve never been fond of movies that attempt to create deep “art”, normally finding that if the attempt is being made then the odds are the results will be a grandiose attempt to create something that doesn’t actually exist. A recent blurb describing another film said something to the effect if you have to explain what you just watched then the movie wasn’t very good. Movies like this, where the goal is to make a film with supposed deeper roots than are on display, fail miserably at what they set out to do. True art in film more often comes without the intent of it being so.

Perhaps there are other out there who will enjoy the film and I say good for you. As for me it was difficult to stay awake and watch. Compound that with the early scenes of Katherine being told to disrobe by her husband, watching an actress in a role that requires her to do so and then considering the furor over Harvey Weinstein and his behavior and it just leaves you with a bad feeling.

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When watching and writing about movies there will always be the blockbuster titles that come along offering great movies. Then again some of those can be among the worst movies as well. The treat lies when you come across a movie you’ve never heard of, that got little if any release to theaters but that is one you can enjoy more than once. “2:22” is one of those movies.

Michiel Huisman stars as Dylan, an air traffic controller in New York and one of their best. Dylan is a man who sees patterns in all things, whose mind takes in all the pieces of an equation and predicts the outcome. Then the unthinkable happens.

One day at work Dylan sees the screens change and lighted constellations appear before them. A flash of light distracts him as his co-workers stare on, trying to alert him of an impending crash between two planes, one taking off and one landing. When the flash ends, Dylan is able to save the day and prevent the crash with a near miss. While he saved both planes, his behavior lands him with a suspension.

Things begin to happen that cause Dylan concern. His daily routine, while patterned out as he plans, goes beyond those plans. His daily routine is punctuated with seeing and hearing the same events from the time he wakes until the time he goes to bed. A drop of water, hearing a plane fly overheard, a near crash between a bicyclist and a car, a woman laughing, jackhammers, all falling into place at the same time each day. And each day culminates with him ending in Grand Central Station and seeing a woman about to be shot at 2:22.

In an attempt to shake off his thoughts he goes to an aerial ballet, a birthday gift from one of his friends. At the ballet he catches the eye of a young woman and eventually approaches her. Her name is Sarah (Teresa Palmer) and the two hit it off. As they talk he learns (we knew from seeing her earlier) that she was on one of the two planes he saved. As they become closer and attached to one another Dylan continues to see the images he’s been seeing.

Sarah works in an art gallery featuring the work of her ex-boyfriend Jonas (Sam Reid). At an exhibition she invites Dylan to Jonas reveals his latest work, a holographic display that winds its way to Grand Central Station. As Dylan watches he recognizes the images in this display that he’s been seeing the past few days. He flies into a rage and leaves, causing Sarah some concern.

The question becomes what these two things have in common. Why was this the location that Jonas used? Has he been seeing images as well? And why is Dylan reliving the same pattern of events day after day? Is it a warning? Or maybe a time loop that he continues to see from the past? More clues present themselves and Dylan begins to unravel what it is that is happening. But can he do so before the tragedy in his mind becomes reality?

To begin with the story here is complex and holds your interest from start to finish but not to the extent that it’s difficult to follow. Dylan’s visions and the story within are compelling for both Dylan and we as the viewer. The pieces are there to decipher but the pattern isn’t quite there for us to understand until near the end of the film. Some will figure out bits and pieces but the end result might surprise a few.

The acting here is wonderful. For me the best performances are those where I feel as if the actors are not performing but have become the characters they are playing. That happens with everyone in this film. Huisman, who had another great performance in THE AGE OF ADELINE, should be moving on to starring roles like this but in major blockbusters. Peters has landed roles in some high profile films like HACKSAW RIDGE and my guess is we’ll be seeing more of her as well.

The production value of this movie is so well done that it’s hard to believe this wasn’t a release from a mega-major film studio. The effects, the cinematography and more all work together to tell a story that will lure you in, hold you on the edge of your seat and leave you wanting more. To me that’s a movie worth watching and one that I’ll keep on the shelf ready to revisit on occasion.

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I can remember when the movie POPCORN came out how great an idea I thought they had come up with. Movies within a movie and all paying tribute to one of the greatest promoters of horror films that ever lived, William Castle. Not directly mind you, but a tribute to the ballyhoo he was known for. Combine that with the current style of horror film involving teens in jeopardy and you know it had everything a horror fan could ask for.

The story revolves around college student Maggie Butler (Jill Schoelen), majoring in film at the local university and living at home with her mother Suzanne (Dee Wallace). Dealing with some terrifying dreams Maggie keeps a record of them intending to use those nightmares for a film she wants to do one day. Suzanne is concerned about her daughter’s nightmares but has her own issues to deal with when she’s lured to the Dreamland Theater by a voice from her past.

In an effort to come up with a unifying project and to generate funds for the fledgling film department Maggie’s professor Davis (Tony Roberts) takes a suggestion made by her fellow student Toby (Tom Villard). The group decides to put on an all-night horror movie marathon. At first concerned about the time they have to do so, Davis agrees when he learns Toby has connections to a Dr. Mnesyne (Ray Walston), a memorabilia collector who has the films they need as well as the gimmicks that were used when the films were first released. Gaining access to the old Dreamland Theater, the group sets up cleaning the building and preparing for the big night.

While preparing and checking out the items in the box they come across a short film and decide to watch it to see what it is. What they witness is a film by the legendary Lanyard Gates, a crazed film maker who took things to the extreme in an effort to create the most realistic film possible. So real that the last anyone knew of him he was shooting a film that resulted in his demise along with his followers, burned in a theater while filming the short the students are now watching.

Not scared off by the film they carry on with their project. A giant mosquito is rigged to fly over the audience, electro-shock buzzers are placed in select seats and foul odors are prepared for a movie in odorama. The day comes, the audience fills the auditorium and the films begin. But something else is going on as well. One by one the various members of the group are being killed without the others being aware. Who is behind it all, who will survive and what it all has to do with Maggie and her dreams will be revealed by the end of the film.

There are several things that make this movie work. The first and most obvious is the movies within the movie. Each of them has ties to old hokum live items that were used at one time or another. And the movies themselves are a hoot. They were also what led to the movie getting a new director halfway through as you’ll find out in the extras.

The second thing that works is the story itself. Using the tried and true theme made big in the 80s with a group of young people in jeopardy and being knocked off one by one keeps the theme of the horror films from them intact while combining it with those old movies at the same time. This nice blend combines to make an entertaining film in the end.

Two performances stand out in the film. Schoelen does a great job as Maggie. The whole film hinges on her being believable and she is quite that here. The second is in Tom Villard who is great as Toby. The dedicated film fan who puts it all together could be played too broadly but he does it quite well here. The rest of the cast is great in their performances as well.

Synapse has once again done a fantastic job of offering this movie in the best format possible with the cleanest looking transfer I’ve ever seen of it. It’s a 2k scan of an archival 35mm interpostive. Extras include an audio commentary track by director Mark Herrier, Schoelen, Malcolm Danare, and special makeup effects artist Mat Falls, MIDNIGHT MADNESS: THE MAKING OF POPCORN documentary, ELECTRIC MEMORIES an interview with actor Bruce Glover, the theatrical trailer, television trailer and TV spots, a still gallery and reversible cover are by Chris MacGibbon.

If you’ve never seen this film this is the way to do it, a treat for move fans as well as horror fans. Tame enough with little gore to be seen, safe enough to qualify for a PG-13 in today’s world and still it’s a solid horror film. For me this is one worth adding to your collection.

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