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Posts from the ‘James Brigham’ Category

16
Feb

Top Ten Films of 2008 by James Brigham

by JAMES BRIGHAM

the-visitor2

The ten best films of 2008, listed in no particular order:

Slumdog Millionaire

I’m very thankful for movies like Slumdog Millionaire. Every once in awhile after a string of mediocre theater expeditions, I begin to question my spending habits. Films like this get me excited again about choosing to venture away from the safety of my living room DVD player to see films on the big screen. The sheer bravado of this picture is extraordinary. I felt like I had been swept down upon by some magnificent energy bird, yanked off my feet and hurled into the screen. Read more »

3
Jul

DVD of the Week – A Haiku for Desperado (1995)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

Commentary Track prides itself on its writers’ ability to see a wide range of films from all kinds of genres and eras. Sadly, our capacity for filmic intake is finite as we are not a collection of near-omnipotent extraterrestrial Watchers. Given the limitations of current human technology, we’re forced to occasionally recommend older DVD releases rather than write about new movies that none of us have seen (which today includes Driving Lessons, Puccini for Beginners, and The Taste of Tea). Read more »

19
Jun

Movie Review – Severance (2007)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

AND YOU THOUGHT YOUR JOB SUCKED

The horror-comedy (Transylvania 6-5000, The ‘Burbs, Cabin Fever) is my favorite film genre, small though it may loom in the minds of the masses. There’s just something charmingly madcap about people rushing through nightmares with half-crazed smirks on their lips, battling monstrous foes in an over-the-fashion under a banner of knowingly droll commentary from the filmmakers. Characters from this specialty realm can be self-aware pieces of meta-fiction, frightened individuals legitimately reacting with shock-induced lunacy, or broadly painted purveyors of comic relief. Regardless of their protagonists’ exact nature, the end result of such films remains the same: the humorous elements heighten the scares and vice-versa. The British import Severance is such an entity, capably mixing workplace humor with shots of jet black comedy and a liberal dose of effective isolation horror. Read more »

10
Jun

Movie Review – Evil Dead Trap (1988)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

IMITATION, WHAT’S UP? HEY, HAVE YOU MET FLATTERY?

One afternoon a few years back during a jaunt through the DVD section of the local Best Buy electronics store, I grew curious about a film with an eerie cover that was prominently placed in the Horror aisle. Its gloomy title, Evil Dead Trap, was the first thing to catch my eye. I immediately saw it as a variant on the good name value of The Evil Dead – a kinetic and gruesome zombie romp which I happen to regard as being one of the scariest movies ever made. A hearty endorsement from Oliver Stone by way of a quote on the front further piqued my interest. Stone declared it to be, “A daring and grim thriller,” and that, “[it] reveals Japan’s twisted sexual soul one terrifying scene after another.” Read more »

5
Jun

DVD of the Week – Review of A Fistful of Dollars (1964)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

As Helen stated in last week’s DVD pick of Rio Grande, occasionally the writers here on Commentary Track will be compelled to select older fare when faced with the notion of writing about films that none of us have seen and/or feel uncomfortable in promoting. This happened to be the case with the new releases for June 5th: the Pang Brothers’ supernatural thriller, The Messengers, and the Eddie Murphy comedy Norbit (a.k.a. Eddie Murphy in a Fat Suit – Again). Read more »

2
Jun

Movie Review – Bug (2007)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

IT’S KINDA SCARY, THE SHAPE I’M IN

In case it isn’t yet readily apparent, allow me to spell something out for you: I love movies. I think there’s something sacred about the process of disappearing into the images being projected onto a giant theater screen – it’s an almost magical connection between the art and the viewer that can, at its best, cause me to momentarily forget my own physical presence and believe fully in an unfolding story writ large before my widespread eyes. I currently estimate that I saw over 30 films at the theater in 2006, so I’d imagine that I’ve earned my multiplex survival merit badge twice over by now. Taking this philosophy into account, what does it say about Bug when I reveal that it engrossed me in ways I’ve rarely encountered, but that I’m now feeling like spending less time and money at the cinema? Read more »

22
May

DVD of the Week – Review of Apocalypto (2006)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

After directing his hugely successful biblical drama The Passion of the Christ, Mel Gibson’s decision to helm Apocalypto – a subtitled, Mayan language chase picture – had quite a few Hollywood analysts and film fans scratching their heads in response. Although it proved to be not nearly as controversial (or as lucrative) as Gibson’s last directorial effort, the notorious ex-action star still managed to deliver another visually arresting film capable of brewing negativity amongst select demographics. Apocalypto’s focus on a Mayan civilization embroiled in lavish and gory displays of human sacrifice offended certain descendents of said ethnicity and members of the scientific community. Read more »

16
May

Movie Review – Running Scared (2006)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

RUN, RUNNER!

Amongst a bevy of first-rate actors, Paul Walker, of all people, shines in Running Scared, Wayne (The Cooler) Kramer’s newest unreal crime drama. For most of this ex-model’s career, Walker’s been consigned to playing the handsome but lifeless throwaway characters of the silver screen – as equally adept at portraying the bland bad guy (She’s All That) as he is the pedestrian vanilla hero (The Fast and the Furious). The neo-noir Running Scared is a welcome change of pace from these past pretty boy roles that seem to have dominated his life. Walker’s Joey is miles away from the “just-smacked-in-the-head-by-a-surfboard” look Walker displayed on Into the Blue’s poster and his performance is a return to the high quality acting chops displayed in John Dahl’s Joyride, an equally absorbing thriller. Read more »

8
May

Movie Review – Next (2007)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

NIC CAGE KNOWS WHAT THE FUTURE HOLDS

For reasons briefly explained in my Ten Anticipated Films for 2007 article from January, I was really looking forward to Next, an action mindbender starring the masterful Nic Cage, the vivacious Jessica Biel, and the reliable Julianne Moore. Unlike Cage’s Vegas magician, Cris, I have no ability to tell what the future holds; if I did, I might have glimpsed what a mixed bag this movie was and put a different entry in its place. Read more »

2
May

Movie Review – Vacancy (2007)

by JAMES BRIGHAM

WE SHOULD HAVE LISTENED TO TOM BODETT

In spite of what its advertising campaign might lead you to believe, Vacancy is definitely not another blood drenched float in the torture horror parade (the Saw franchise, Hostel, the upcoming Captivity). While still financially lucrative to Hollywood, I’m slowly beginning to find that genre vein nearly tapped dry of arresting possibilities. To those with a similar bent, behold the good news: Vacancy is a straight-up thriller whose mere premise is enough to shiver spines. In classic Hitchcockian fashion, the film mostly grips the imagination through shadowy implication in lieu of repulsing the senses with overt ultra-violence. As our heroes plow ahead through this dark exploration of urban legend, however, their plight evokes increasing frustration. Every rock-solid moment of good acting is eventually upended by a clichéd turn of events and Vacancy ultimately becomes a prime example of clever ideas being overextended. Read more »