Category Archives: C

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010): United States – directed by Michael Apted

Rated PG by the MPAA – contains some scary moments and action violence

This third entry into the Chronicles of Narnia series has a new distributor, and a smaller budget, but this is not immediately evident.  After Prince Caspian failed to live up to its enormous budget, Disney dropped the Walden Media production, and Fox picked it up.  Thus, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader comes to us courtesy of Fox Walden.

I have not read the Narnia books in many years, and will take other’s word that this entry includes some of the plot of Dawn Treader, with some other strains from The Silver Chair.  Nevertheless, the plot here is rather straightforward.  Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund (Skandar Keynes) are the two remaining Pevensie children, stuck in England during the war.  Peter and Susan are in America, along with their parents.  So Lucy and Edmund stay with their cousin, Eustace (Will Poulter), a whiny, petulant boy who sneers at their fanciful notions of Narnia and its magic.  Naturally, a painting on the wall starts pouring water as they fight, and they are all sucked into the sea.

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Captains Courageous

Captains Courageous (1937): United States – directed by Victor Fleming

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some mild mature themes and brief mild violence

Captains Courageous is a film like many others, whose popularity decreased after perhaps the late 1950’s, when cliches had become so rooted in film culture that the only way to move an audience was to shock them, mildly at first then rather strongly as the 1960’s gave way to the 1970’s.  But Captains Courageous is a gentle reminder that there used to be a different kind of movie, one that told a solid story with interesting characters.  Some of it may be dated now, and some of it may be cliche today, but it still works, and rather well at that.

The first half hour of the film is occupied with the setup of Harvey Cheyne’s (Freddie Bartholonew) life.  He is a young boy, and his father (Melvyn Douglas) is fabulously wealthy.  A tower in downtown New York City has the Cheyne name on it.  Harvey’s mother died some years past, and his father does the best he can.  His best, unfortunately, is not very good, as he caters to Harvey’s every whim.  Or, if he’s not present to cater to each whim personally (which he often isn’t) there are numerous servants ordered to dote on him.

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The Courtship of Eddie’s Father

The Courtship of Eddie’s Father (1963): United States – directed by Vincente Minnelli

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some mild discussion about the birds and the bees

Vincente Minnelli was a go-to director for much of his career, assured of financial hits at every turn.  And he churned out a number of crowd-pleasers, very few of which have endured as bona fide classics.  The Courtship of Eddie’s Father is no exception.

The titular Eddie (Ronny Howard) is a young boy, innocent and naive, for the most part.  Early in the film he asks his father, Tom (Glenn Ford), “Is mommy really dead?”  When assured by a despondent dad that she is, he replies, in true 50’s/60’s down-home style, “Gosh, gosh.”  Eddie is sad that mommy’s gone, but he is also worried about his father.

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Conviction (2010): United States – directed by Tony Goldwyn

Rated R by the MPAA – contains some violent and bloody images, strong language, mature themes

Without star turns by Sam Rockwell and Hillary Swank, Conviction wouldn’t be nearly as powerful.  A prime example of a concept and story greater than its execution on celluloid, Conviction tells the story of Betty Anne Waters.  Her remarkable true story took her on an 18 year quest to become a lawyer and fight for her brother’s release on a murder conviction.

The story is told linearly, but with varying flashbacks highlighting important aspects of the relationship between Betty Anne (Swank) and her brother Kenny (Sam Rockwell).  They grew up in trailer parks and foster care, white trash in eastern Massachusetts.  They got in trouble together, stealing candy and breaking into old people’s homes.  Kenny took most of the heat, and by the time he was a young adult he was on a first-name basis with the entire police force.  But then, in 1980 in the town of Ayer, a bloody shack was discovered with a dead body inside.  The usual suspect was rounded up, and soon all the evidence gathered by local law-woman Nancy Taylor (Melissa Leo) points towards Kenny’s guilt.

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Cropsey (2009): United States – directed by Barbara Brancaccio and Joshua Zeman

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some language, disturbing content, discussions about violence

Cropsey is decidedly a documentary, and does not veer into the territory recently inhabited by The Blair Witch Project or Paranormal Activity [review here].  It is all true, or at least the footage does not purport to be something it is not.  This is refreshing, and provides for a much more effective and affecting film.

The subject matter is interesting; is there a smattering of truth in the urban legends a child might hear while growing up?  Directors Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio, growing up on Staten Island, had heard stories of a sinister person who inhabited the grounds surrounding an abandoned mental institution.  If kids entered the woods they might be targets of this killer named Cropsey.

At one point in the mid 1980’s this became a reality, when a young girl named Jennifer Schweiger disappeared.  A massive effort was launched to find her or her body after police efforts proved fruitless.  It was then revealed that there had been other children who had gone missing.  Their cases just hadn’t been so publicized.

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Changeling (2008): United States – directed by Clint Eastwood

Rated R by the MPAA – contains mature themes, disturbing material, some violence and some language

Changeling is Clint Eastwood tackling a period piece, a crime drama, a murder mystery, an historical account, police corruption, and the mistreatment of women in 1920’s Los Angeles.  The film is based on a true story, making certain elements all the more unsavory.  But it is an interesting story, and a complicated one, as evidenced by the 141 minute runtime.  This is Eastwood at his most bloated, and the numerous plot threads eventually hurt a generally engaging tale.

Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a working woman in Los Angeles.  She is a hard worker and intelligent, as evidenced by her status as floor supervisor in a call center.  She manages the other women, floating around on roller-skates to more quickly help the callers.  She has a son, Walter (Gattlin Griffith).  His father left when Walter arrived, due to a great fear of responsibility.  Christine does her best to care and provide for the boy.

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Cremaster 4

Cremaster 4 (1995): United States/France/United Kingdom – directed by Matthew Barney

Not rated by the MPAA – contains odd sexual content and artistically presented sexual themes

Cremaster 4 is video art at its most intellectual and strange.  Knowing Matthew Barney’s overall ideas help make this interesting piece more accessible, though it’s difficult to tell how the themes presented here coalesce with the rest of his ideas without seeing the other segments of the Cremaster Cycle.

There are happenings in Cremaster 4, though not much of a plot.  But this is to be expected in a work of art more akin to performance art than the movies.  Two primary sequences unfold; the first involves a satyr creature tap dancing in a room on a pier over the water.  The second is a race between two motorcycles with side cars.

The satyr thing (played by Barney himself) is strange and hideous.  Its nostrils are split open, its hair odd and barely covering the head wounds where it appears horns used to grow.  Its ears are long and pointy.  And it tap dances, around and around on the floor of this room, until finally a hole opens in the floor of the pier he occupies.

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The Corpse Grinders

The Corpse Grinders (1971): United States – directed by Ted V. Mikels

Rated R by the MPAA – contains violence

Edit: This review is an April Fool’s joke. The Corpse Grinders is a terrible movie

The Corpse Grinders is the seminal masterpiece by renowned auteur Ted Mikels, the man responsible for other works of genius such as The Astro-Zombies.  With The Corpse Grinders he manages to take his artwork to the next level, providing an unparalleled story of depth and complexity while combining it with pertinent social themes.

What is the cost of human life?  What is the worth of a person’s body?  These are some of the difficult questions that Mikel’s dares to ask in The Corpse Grinders.  By framing these issues around a group of villains intent on using human bodies as cat food he manages to provide a few answers, but, more importantly, gives the audience plenty to ponder.

The answer to the second question is provided in the film: $0.20 a pound.  That is how much a blue-collar gentleman and his wife get for digging up bodies from the cemetery.  Their brief inclusion in the film shows the condition of the working stiff and the difficulties they must face trying to get ahead in life.  They also warn about the excesses of greed: at what point will your benefactor refuse to keep you working, and instead grind your body into cat food?

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Chugyeogja (The Chaser)

Chugyeogja (The Chaser) (2008): South Korea – directed by Hong-jin Na

Not rated by the MPAA – contains violence, gore, language, sexual content

Note: This review was initially written in February, 2009, for 24Framespersecond.  The film is now getting a release (of sorts) in the United States.

There’s a dirty ex-detective (Yun-seok Kim) who has turned to pimping out girls to make the big bucks.  He still has some tenuous connections with the force, but those are waning.  There’s a sidekick he calls Idiot that does his dirty work, like jam topless pictures of his girls in the windows of every car on the street.  Then there’s the girl of his that he sends on a job, even though she’s quite sick with the flu.  He loses touch with her and starts becoming paranoid that someone is selling his girls, as she’s the third he’s lost.

Things get a little more complicated after that, as there’s a serial killer targeting young women.  The police are involved with a man who threw feces at the mayor, and jump at the chance to switch the media focus to catching the serial killer.  Much more than this would be detrimental to spoil: the film kept my attention for the entire two hours and I wouldn’t want to ruin the experience for anyone.

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Le mépris (Contempt)

Le mépris (Contempt) (1963): France – directed by Jean-Luc Godard

Not rated by the MPAA – contains some language and sly nudity

It is quite difficult, going back and watching a master’s old films and attempting to review them.  It is difficult to understand how the film was received when it premiered, how one might have reacted and reviewed it at the time.  It is difficult to judge a master filmmaker, one whose body of work is highly regarded, one who is responsible for one of the truly groundbreaking shifts in cinema, and one who continues to influence filmmakers today.

Jean-Luc Godard is famous for helping pioneer the nouvelle vague , the new wave of French filmmakers that dominated the European film landscape in the 1960’s.  Breathless was an audacious and provocative venture, boldly destroying established methods of filmmaking, including editing, plot, and dialogue.  Perhaps Godard figured that, since cinema was a lie, why not expose it in a shocking manner?

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