CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Movie Review:
HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL
(1959 + 1999) and The Curse of Colorization!

by Christopher Beaubien • April 15, 2011 • 1 Comment

The Black-and-White 1959 Version

The Colorized 1959 Version

When The Price Is Dead Right

Nightfall. It is calmest before the storm as five hearses roll up the hillside carrying five fresh victims. Very much alive for now, they have all been invited by that eccentric millionaire Frederick Loren (Vincent Price) for his wife’s party… at the House on Haunted Hill. How he spoils her! To make the night more interesting (for himself), he has decreed that the guests will win $10,000 each if they last until morning locked inside the spooky mansion. They needn’t worry about losing by default of death since the money will then go to their next of kin. That Frederick… always thinking ahead.

The guests are strangers to each other as well as their host. More interesting that way. They include a typist and wallflower named Nora Manning (Carolyn Craig), the confident pilot Lance Schroeder (Richard Long), the psychiatrist Dr. David Trent (Alan Marshal), the columnist Ruth Bridgers (Julie Mitchum – Robert Mitchum’s sister!), and the owner of the house Watson Pritchard (Elisha Cook Jr.) who is visibly frightened beyond his wits. He goes on and on about their imminent doom by the housed evil. Why go in? They all need money, you see.

Just upstairs held up in her room forever freshening her face is Annabelle (Carol Ohmart), Frederick’s scheming wife. Annabelle insists that it was not he who married her, but she. She also makes no secret of the fact that she loves only his wealth and wants it all for herself. Actually, Annabelle is just wife #4, but what’s most alarming is that those last three wives are dead. Frederick knows of Annabelle’s infidelities and can’t prove them. They’re a perfect match because Annabelle is smart and can hold her own. Frederick would surely agree she is a worthy opponent. Oh, how they love implicating their petty torments on one another! It is their mutual hatred that makes their relationship so strong.

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Movie Review:
HARDLY BEAR TO LOOK AT YOU (2009)

by Christopher Beaubien • September 24, 2009 • Start the Discussion!

Here’s Looking at You, Kid.

At first sight, the couple walking and dining throughout Paris appear to be lovers. We are mistaken. Daniel, a trim and fortyish intellectual with a voice like Patrick Bauchau (The Rapture, 1991), is played by Jeremy Herman, the writer of Hardly Bear to Look at You (2009). Stella is a pretty performance artist in her early twenties, played by Anna Neil. A few years ago, Neil starred in a short film called The Yacht (2006), which was written and co-directed by Herman. The other director who also starred in The Yacht was Huck Melnick, who directed his first feature-length film, Hardly Bear to Look at You.

If you are enjoying the giddy sensation of your brain spinning, keep reading.

Daniel, an artist as well a connoisseur of fine food and wines, acts as a mentor to Stella. It’s questionable whether Stella realizes she is his muse — Sylvia to Daniel’s Marcello. Wandering the streets of Paris, he takes her out to restaurants and bars. Their relationship is one of flirtation, but never becomes one as intimate as in Guinevere (1999), though the Audrey Wells film took a more lacerating view of such a coupling. Daniel and Stella sleep in the same bed without sleeping with each other. Upon the description of this May-August romance, Daniel is surprisingly more sympathetic because Stella is never a victim and clearly has the upper hand here. Any advance made by him is either encouraged or vetoed. Director Melnick makes no judgment calls here, but I wish that Daniel had been scorched at least once. His feelings toward her are genuine, so why not challenge him?

He is utterly infatuated with her. The first two minutes of the film simply watches Stella sleeping in the morning light. Great concentration is made to the movement of her feathery collar as she inhales and exhales. Somehow, this does not feel perverse; it is a form of adoration in the sweetest sense. Known to savor the strong tartness of an olive, Daniel commits a silent declaration when he slides an olive into his pants pocket. More obvious is the shot of his jean-clad crotch after he has asked (read: directs) Stella to climb up three flights of stairs to ask her something. He admits to her that he has had sex with a number of women, including prostitutes. Stella claims to having had just a few lovers, but we suspect otherwise, considering how flirtatious and often she runs into other men she knew way back when. Sometimes she is cruel while feigning tactfulness. Being too close to Daniel’s perspective, his jealousy is infectious.

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Movie Review: SLACKER UPRISING (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • November 04, 2008 • 1 Comment

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Wake Up and Smell the— 286 (R) | 252 (D)

On the night before the 2004 presidential election, Michael Moore spoke with ferocity and vigor at the final round of his five-week Slacker Uprising tour across the country and visiting sixty cities. Despite being outnumbered by an enthusiastic crowd of Kerry supporters, many Bush pushers chanted “4 more years” voluminously. It was like a bad omen of things to come. New Orleans citizens abandoned for days in the Katrina flood. Nearly 4200 US soldiers dead in Iraq. Thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens tortured and killed. A damning deficit and a broken economy. You know the drill. What’s done is done. Four years after, we have another roll of the dice.

Some remember Bush’s second win back in 2004, his first legitimate one, and wondered if we’d still be alive next year. R.E.M.: “It’s The End of the World As We Know It”. It felt something like that. From the beginning of 2003, I discovered Michael Moore through his stinging documentary/political thesis Bowling For Columbine, which won the Academy Award. I sympathized with Moore’s views and followed up on his work. At the time I worked on tiling roofs, I remember after reading Dude, Where’s My Country? over the weekend in its entirety, I missed out on a Michael Moore signing at the same Chapters (the Canadian version of Borders) the day after I bought the book. The next year, I had seen all of his films, TV shows – TV Nation and The Awful Truth – and read all his books including the elusive copy Adventures in a TV Nation. Having followed Moore’s exploits closely, visiting his website weekly, watching Slacker Uprising now was like catching up with an old sitcom I was all too familiar with.

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Review: INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (2008)

by Christopher Beaubien • May 28, 2008 • 1 Comment

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Old Man Jones is whipping up a storm!

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) is the best Indy movie after the blessed original. Steven Spielberg and George Lucas have taken the whip-snapping archaeologist out for a fourth time while retaining some of the most crucial elements from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) that without tarnished the past two sequels. The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not a perfect movie. Far from it. There are quibbles galore, but it didn’t stop me from grinning throughout this popcorn entertainment. The fourth exceeding the original is impossible. Raiders is perfect.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), after twenty-seven years is still the best example of a character-driven action motion picture. There are no wasted moments and the exposition is told briskly so the adrenaline rush isn’t tempered. More importantly, the characters were larger than life, capable of nuance, and worth caring about. Watching Raiders in a revival theater last year was an uplifting experience. Spielberg and Lucas made the movie, one they personally would have liked to have seen, with great zeal and, more importantly, selfishness. Like a hyper-imaginative kid, he invented one exhilarating sequence after another and clocked in five minutes shy of two hours. When initially released, Raiders saved Hollywood at a time when ticket sales ebbed to a devastating low.

I approached the fourth one with trepidation after recalling how the sequels treated the fedora man so shamefully. “Docta Jones” anyone? Thankfully the fourth adventure is a hardy throwback that mostly succeeds in integrating the dashing 1930s rouge into the 1950s. The Indiana Jones saga now explores that decades’ hang ups: conspiracy theories, commies, and the stuff science-fiction magazines reveled in. Dr. Henry “Indiana” Jones, now in his fifties, is at a point in his life one of colleagues, Dean Charles Stanforth (Jim Broadbent, Hot Fuzz, 2007), refers to as “where (it) stops giving you things and starts taking them away.” CONTINUE READING ►