Tuesday, April 21, 2015

See No Evil 2 & Muck- 2 movies...


As the movie begins we are caught right up in the middle of the action. Three half naked women stumble out of a Cape Cod marsh pursued by some unseen force. They are dragging a wounded man and are quickly followed by a second man and we quickly learn they’ve lost two of their friends to the unseen pursuer(s). They find an abandoned house and hole up while the only healthy male runs for help.

This movie is not very good.

We never ever learn why the young people are being pursued by the malevolent force in the marsh- the DVD box says they stumbled across an ancient burial ground, but we never see this actually happen. We never see the unknown Force- but the characters quickly run in to a second threat in the form of albino “Creepers” who are too afraid to enter the Marsh. I went through almost 45 minutes of this movie before the plot started to make any sort of sense- and even then it only ever kind of sort of makes a little bit of sense.

I had to look this movie up on the internet where I discovered this is the first in a planned trilogy of films, with the second film supposedly being a PREQUEL that will show why these five characters are being pursued. I have a serious problem with this that I will get to in a little bit. I still need to talk about this movie and I still needed to look up the film online to get any sort of sense.

So the writer/director quit his day job in order to pursue this dream of being a film director and invested his personal savings into making this movie. And, hey, I have to give credit where it’s due- he’s pursuing his dream and I respect the hell out of it. And he’s not entirely unskilled in this field, either- the film has some good moments. In all actuality, the arrival of a new character into the mix totally MADE the film far more entertaining than it had been up until that moment.

This may fall into a bit of spoiler territory, but that one male who runs off to get help does manage to find a bar with patrons and a bartender and he borrows a cell phone and then he calls for help. He calls his cousin, Troit. Troit lives nearby and drives a broken down cab so he’ll be able to come in and pull all them there folks out of trouble- and then that one character runs back to the house. That’s right, folks- he does not call the cops, he does not call for any additional help, he does not ask anyone to drive him back to the house so he can pick up his friends and bring THEM to the bar- NOPE! He runs back to the house.


But he does manage to bring Troit into the film- and let me tell you folks, this character is a godsend. This character is arrogant, brash, a total jerkwad and pretty much has no redeeming value as a human being. He’s drunk when he gets the call, he’s hitting on the 2014 Playmate of the Year, and he’s also hanging out with a second woman who he constantly hits on and is rebuffed by. He is an AWFUL HUMAN BEING- but he brings that Jerk level up past ten and hits the “ASH-O-METER” pretty damn quickly when the spit hits the fan. He is glorious!

Let’s see- what else does the film have? It has Kane Hodder as one of those albino creepers who are almost all shirtless, wearing leather britches, and wielding a variety of weapons. He doesn’t actually do much, but he’s there. And there are a number of women who are in various stages of undress throughout the film- rarely does it have anything at all to do with the plot of the film. There are even scenes where this eye candy models lingerie for no apparent reason for far too long.

I can’t recommend this film to anyone. I can say that if you can stomach the forty five minutes or so where people run around, get killed, and you’re never really certain where one scene begins and another ends you will get as your reward a dose of Troit. Troit is worthwhile- but seeing as how this trilogy is supposed to continue with a prequel, then that means Troit will not be in the prequel. And that makes the second film completely worthless, especially since we already know who dies in the first film. GADDANG IT!!!!

2.5 out of 5- and it would be a 1.5 if it weren’t for Troit. All hail Troit. 

See No Evil 2

The first “See No Evil” was a pretty standard horror slasher film- I enjoyed it and I thought it  was a fun little ride featuring WWE wrestler “Kane” (Glen Jacobs) as the films “monster”, Jacob Goodnight. The end was pretty final, but only so final as most Slasher films may be. There wasn’t an ending stinger, it was just what it was and it didn’t really need to be anything more. So just about a decade later the studio decides to bring back Jacob Goodnight for another run.

So WWE studios brings that new sister/team for directing duties, they bring in Danielle Harris and Katharine Isabelle to star, and they decide to follow up the original film by setting this movie mere moments after the previous entry. Jacob Goodnight is wheeled into the morgue with the bodies of his victims and wakes up on the slab. He sets off on a path of bloody carnage and slaughters people- and that’s the movie. That is the sum total of the film.

To be fair, the performers aren’t really given much to work with here- the characters are flimsy at best, with Danielle Harris taking the lead when her friends decide to stop by her work for a Birthday Celebration. And no one is really fleshed out from there- Katharine Isabelle gets the most out of her screen time, but everyone else are just pins set up for the monster to kill. I don’t even know the character names in this film- Isabelle and Harris did a solid job, but that’s where the performances begin and end. This film actually has less character development than the first and that film didn’t have much to begin with. There’s no reason to really connect with any character or feel badly for their death- the inevitable stalking through the hallways of the morgue just never reach a fever pitch, the film never really shocks, and the gore doesn’t even seem to satisfy. The movie has the feel of something being rushed through production and it doesn’t precisely hit any real solid notes.

That’s not to say it’s a total waste of time- Kane is watchable as the stalking monster, the gore effects are fairly decent, and the sisters do manage to create a certain atmosphere with their pacing and edits.

2.5 out of 5.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Dangerous Liaisons: An evening at Paper Wing Theatre.

Dangerous Liaisons @ Paper Wing Theatre

I have a couple of spoiler warnings to declare before I get into my thoughts on this show. The thing is, the story is very well known. If you haven’t seen the vast number of adaptations or read the source material, then I apologize in advance. But the truth of the matter is that there are some stories that simply couldn’t really be spoiled. Hamlet is trying to avenge his father and dies, Romeo and Juliet die, Benedick and Beatrice fall in love, and Rudolph saves Christmas. This play is based on a classic novel that is well over 200 years old and I’m not going to apologize for letting the cat out of the bag. Consider yourself warned, oh dear Faceless Reader.

I’m a prude.

Let’s get that out of the way from the get-go and move on from there since I’m already late in seeing the show, already late to the controversy that is the show, and already late in addressing all the pachyderms occupying said domicile.  My beliefs are somewhat puritanical and that’s really all there is to it. I’m not ashamed of it and I certainly don’t need to hide behind excuses like some writers in the area. So the question has been asked about whether Paper Wing Theatre goes beyond the realm of good taste and offends sensibilities. To that, the answer is simple- If you’re the sort to be offended or uncomfortable with any degree of stage nudity then you may consider their advertising a “buyer beware” approach to the show. But it’s not gratuitous- it’s not nudity for the sake of nudity and it’s not even nudity for the sake of titillation. Actually, the nudity is often so matter of fact and brief that it seems very much like a costuming choice for the sake of the time period more than anything. Save for one scene, the nudity is never really thrown at the audience- and that one scene is something I need to talk about in some degree of detail.
Amanda Platsis bares all for her performance in this scene- a deliberate exposure for the character who is freely in love and unburdened in a moment of absolute vulnerability. She is glowing on the stage and it is in that moment that she is torn apart and her stunned almost desperate scramble to pull the rags of her clothing back together is heart wrenching. There’s nothing gratuitous in the scene- there’s nothing titillating and especially nothing sensitive to the moment, it is raw and honest and deserves my attention and my admiration. It’s a scene that haunted me on the ride back home, it haunted me when I woke this morning, and it especially haunted me when I struggled to first start writing my thoughts. It was too big to hold back on and so it’s the first thing I’m writing about in earnest- the earlier paragraphs were just fluff to get me started and it’s not at all the end of my thoughts. Platsis built up to this moment throughout the play, building a character arc that made her character believable and sympathetic… something that other adaptations have often failed to achieve for my personal tastes.

What else leads up to this scene? The machinations of the Marquis de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two members of the French aristocracy playing their scandalous games of intrigue and seduction with a definite air of pompous cruelty. And, unlike other productions, this script fully explores the willing participation of others in this Game. The Fashion is spot on (Costumes by :  Katherine Johnson), the language of a lady’s fan is explored, the make-up, the struggle to maintain face in the midst of scorn and humiliation, to use the tongue as a barb with verbal feints and jabs, and the occasional bribe all play a part in the story as more than just dressing. No one plays the game better than the Marquis (Koly McBride), a Lady who has played the game for a long time and who is simply unable to even tolerate a missed opportunity to gain advantage over any and every one. She’s not able to stop herself from drinking her fill of it. She’s not some bored woman of means, she’s actively cruel and merciless in her pursuit of the Game.

Her willing co-conspirator is the Vicomte de Valmont (Lj Brewer), a man whose scandals are worn across his sleeve like a badge of pride. He loves them and he leaves them and he never bats an eye in the process. He’s a rake, through and through. And Brewer presents something noble in all of this- because he never truly claims to be anything other than what he is. He never proclaims himself a good man- and if one is able to read between the lines, he almost seems an honest man in all of these games. And, in the end, he becomes a man who is trapped by the Game itself when it turns on him and sets his path on a seduction of Madame de Tourvel (Platsis). She’s a woman of devout faith, married to a prominent judge, and a great prize to be had by Valmont. But Valmont is wholly unprepared for the man he becomes in the process.

And what about those other participants in the Game? Cecile de Volanges is a na├»ve young woman fresh out of the convent and ripe for the plucking fingers of her cousin, the Marquis and the rakish Valmont. Her doe-eyed love and affection for her music instructor, Chevalier Danceny (well-played by Taylor Landess), paves the way for willing participation in the scandals that ultimately threaten her family and pending marriage. Britney Stane tells her story with all the innocence the role requires and brings something very interesting to her performance. It’s hard to put into words- there is a point in the story where her character is learning the social graces of what it means to be a Lady and she flips her fan. Her performance relies strongly on the practiced ease of the other actresses and one wouldn’t notice if one weren’t paying close attention- I’m just the sort of person who does pay attention. She flips her fan while her eyes seek approval from the others- she walks with an eye for how everyone else is perceiving her walk, a certain worry behind every step that could falter at just about any moment. And Stane does falter on occasion- purposeful to the performance, sold by the others sharing the stage with her, and it’s very well choreographed.

And that leads me to the other noblewomen, all of whom are played to near perfection. Madame de Rosemond (Andrea MacDonald) Valmont’s aunt, Madame de Volanges (Katherine Johnson) as the disapproving mother, and Emily (Kate Faber) a scandalous courtesan. Each woman has a role to play in the affairs of the story and each woman brings something different to the proceeding. Each brings a certain degree of humor when it’s needed, they support the action on the stage with a practiced glance, stare, sigh, or false acceptance of one another.
And what’s a story about Aristocratic excess without the biting satire and humor? This play is rich with laughter, from double entendre’s and sarcasm of the court to the vulgar sexuality and eavesdropping antics of the too-curious servants all too willing to sell out their employers for a few silver. William Colligan is brilliantly hilarious as Valmont’s servant Azolan, a low brow foil in the Shakespearean tradition of Dogberry. He carries on his own illicit affairs and often provides some “bro” moments with Valmont regarding his employers actions. I was also caught up by the sneaky-ninja eavesdropping and whispered secrets of the Marquis’ lady-in-waiting (Cheryl Karoly).

This is the go-home paragraph, the moment where I wrap it up all nice and pretty with a shout out to the director and the crew and all of that stuff- but let’s be honest here, when I look back at the performances and you may note how much I wrote about the other people on stage actually selling each performance with looks, glances, and gestures then you would understand how that speaks to the director for leading her cast in what is ultimately one of the most challenging ensemble performances I’ve ever seen. Certain moments of silence can speak a thousand words, certain mannerisms can only come across with the practiced eye of a director helping their cast to realize the full potential of their performance. Jourdain Barton’s eye is one I’ve long admired and one I continue to admire with this show.
4.5 out of 5.