Posts Tagged ‘Clerks’

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms

Posted 21 Oct 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Didn't Get

By Ezra Stead

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms, USA, 1998

Directed by Joe Chappelle

Phantoms is a by-the-numbers bad horror movie with a compelling performance by Liev Schreiber. At the suggestion of a couple of fictional gentlemen by the names of Jay and Robert, as well as one close, non-fictional friend (hint: we co-wrote this movie together, but he did not act in this one) who recently reminded me of their recommendation, I decided to finally check out “Affleck [being] the bomb in Phantoms.” I can only assume all three parties were being highly sarcastic; after all, one of them was played by Kevin Smith, a longtime friend of Mr. Affleck, but not necessarily someone known for his unadulterated sincerity, Jersey Girl (2004) and the jail cell speech in the third act of Clerks II (2006) excluded.

Dean Koontz’s Phantoms is awful, in that special way in which films like Lawrence Kasdan’s 2003 Stephen King adaptation Dreamcatcher are awful. Author and screenwriter Dean Koontz is often considered the poor man’s King (Koontz fans, please note: I have not actually read any of his books, I am merely recording the popular consensus as I understand it), so it is fitting that Phantoms should have so much in common with that unintentionally hilarious travesty of cinema. Unfortunately, Phantoms lacks the over-the-top craziness of Kasdan’s film, and is therefore substantially less entertaining, albeit mercifully shorter. This is not to say there is no unintentional comedy to be found, as there certainly is, but overall the film is more of a by-the-numbers bad horror movie that lacks the overreaching ambition of the amazingly insane Dreamcatcher. It also borrows heavily from far better films such as Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979) and John Carpenter’s The Thing, which only serves to remind the viewer how truly low-rent this already mediocre film is in comparison to those classics. Read More

Blank City

Posted 02 May 2011 — by Ezra Stead
Category Film Reviews, Movies I Got

By Ezra Stead

Blank City, USA, 2010

Directed by Celine Danhier

Blank City is a lively, well-made documentary of a bygone era.

Celine Danhier’s documentary Blank City is an invigorating love letter to a bygone era, a time when guerrilla filmmakers ran wild in the streets, freely shooting their cinematic visions without the hindrance of Hollywood extravagances like permits, budgets and stars. It is the kind of film that inspires not only nostalgia, but also a forward-thinking desire to follow in the footsteps of its many sometimes deranged but always passionate and interesting subjects. It is a lively documentary, one that celebrates life and manages to revel in nostalgia without ever getting sappy about it.

Blank City follows the rise and eventual fall (or, at least, evolution) of the so-called “No Wave” independent filmmaking scene of New York City in the late 1970s and beyond. A few of the renegades seen in the film went on to become famous and successful – perhaps the biggest names interviewed for the film are John Waters, Jim Jarmusch and Steve Buscemi (Vincent Gallo is also seen in archival footage) – while others remain noteworthy cult figures, highly respected in some circles, but far on the fringes of mainstream renown – Lydia Lunch, Richard Kern, John Lurie. Many of the rest faded completely into obscurity, but the legacy of their approach to filmmaking can be seen in some of today’s indie cult success stories made on extraordinarily low-budgets; the DIY approach advocated by this film’s subjects can easily be seen in the making of films like Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi (1992), Kevin Smith’s Clerks (1994), and Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s The Blair Witch Project (1999), to name just a few. Read More