Proxy (2013)

Proxy ★★★☆☆ Dir: Zach Parker IFC Midnight 120 minutes Released in select theaters April 18, 2014 – Esther (Alexia Rasmussen), a heavily pregnant woman on her way home from a routine ultrasound, is jumped by an assailant, knocked unconscious, her abdomen repeatedly smashed with a brick. It’s an attack more on her unborn child than on her, and despite an emergency Caesarian, shown in graphic detail, the baby doesn’t survive. A meeting with a curt hospital counselor leads Esther to a support group and fellow grieving mom Melanie (Alexa Havins). With no one else to talk to, Esther finds herself drawn to Melanie, more so after catching her in a bizarre scam at a local mall. Their relationship escalates into a symbiotic nightmare, tragedy feeding on tragedy, with truly frightening results. Director Zack Parker’s Proxy (2013) is a psychological thriller with moments of heavy gore and vulgar, dark humor. Despite an interesting premise and deft handling of several shocking plot twists, this is a film without much bite, thanks to being far too concerned with imitating director Brian De Palma’s signature style. There is no reason or purpose, no homage is intended; rather, the film inexplicably and randomly interrupts itself to indulge in moments of crude, tone-deaf mimicry of De Palma’s early works, a cynical gimmick in a film that certainly didn’t need one. Proxy, despite the missteps, contains some solid sociocultural commentary running underneath its shiny indie-horror facade. It’s heavily implied that Esther became pregnant for bizarre and troubling … Continue reading

I Live My Life (1935)

Spunky, beautiful heiress Kay Bentley (Joan Crawford) decides to go ashore when her father’s yacht docks in the Greek Islands. While there, she meets handsome Irish archaeologist Terry O’Neill (Brian Aherne) on an important dig, and after the standard debutante flirtation-via-irritation method doesn’t work, she decides to try again the next day. Discovering he has no time for useless rich party people, she pretends to be her father’s secretary. It works, and the two spend a romantic day together. He promises to travel to New York City to meet her, but because Kay is a spoiled brat, she has no intention of following through; besides, she never told him her real name. Terry tells his fellow professors and archaeologists, including one Betty Collins, played by a woefully underused Aline MacMahon, that he’s going to New York to get married. Unfortunately, he discovers the woman he has been writing all these months really was the secretary of millionaire industrialist G.P. Bentley (Frank Morgan), and not Kay at all. But in no time Terry discovers Kay’s true identity, that she’s a typical trustafarian with a few dozen upper class twits as friends. A few pointed words later, Terry leaves, and Kay starts to wonder if she really did care about him after all. Joan on a leaning board, with Brian Aherne, W.S. Van Dyke, Fred Keating and Frank Morgan during filming of I Live My Life, courtesy A Certain Cinema.   Kay is meant to be your typical young debutante, the kind … Continue reading

Tasting Menu (2013)

Tasting Menu ★★★☆☆ Dir: Roger Gual Magnolia Pictures 85 minutes Released in select theaters April 18, 2014     Chakuta, the world-famous restaurant located on the beaches of Spain, is closing its doors after 15 years. Owner and celebrity chef Mar Vidal (Vicenta N’Dongo) has invited 30 guests for the final dinner, and though one would assume these would be no ordinary guests, they are, in fact, the most typical guests in the world. A tidy group of the very vanilla populate Tasting Menu, and as the evening approaches, widows sit in their living rooms, professionals leave uncomfortable voice mails and businessmen are picked up at the airport, The Divine Comedy’s “I Like” cheerfully underlining the banality of it all. The guests are so boring, in fact, that once the dinner begins, Chakuta’s employees unconsciously manufacture drama just to liven things up. There’s a waiter who can’t seem to get messages and gifts to the proper tables, and manager Max (Andrew Tarbet) not only suspects conspiracy and sabotage at every turn, but deliberately seats competitive businessmen at the same table with each other. Estranged couple Rachel (Claudia Bassols) and Marc (Jan Cornet) lead the ensemble, Rachel’s petty complaints setting the tone of conversation for the night. It seems her husband Marc spends too much time being a successful pediatrician, and saving the lives of children was really cutting into her fabulous best-selling author lifestyle. After their split, Rachel took up with her editor Daniel, played by a truly awful Timothy … Continue reading

Warner Archive: The Girl in the Empty Grave (1977)

Are you a fan of crazy weird 1970s made-for-TV movies? Then have I got a doozy for you: The Girl in the Empty Grave. What you need to know about this film before you even think about watching it is that Empty Grave was intended as a pilot for a new series starring Andy Griffith, a series possibly meant to be titled “Abel,” after Griffith’s character. The series didn’t take off, but here’s the thing: it didn’t take off all the other times it had been attempted over the previous few years, either. This all began in 1974, when Griffith appeared as Sam McNeill, sheriff of a rural lakeside town in a made-for-TV movie Winter Kill. Airing exactly forty years ago on April 15, 1974, Winter Kill was packed to the gills with TV movie stalwarts like Joyce Van Patten, Sheree North, John Calvin, Lawrence Pressman, and even a young Nick Nolte. Intended as a pilot, Winter Kill did well enough in its ABC Movie of the Week slot — no surprise, considering it was written by John Michael Hayes — but ABC declined to turn it into a series. But Winter Kill had been based on producer-writer Lane Slate’s They Only Kill Their Masters (1972), released theatrically by MGM and starring James Garner as small-town sheriff Abel Marsh. Slate picked up the idea and tried again, not before changing the main character’s name once more — this time to Sam Adams — and removing some of the seedier aspects … Continue reading

Elsewhere!

Regis Toomey, Dick Powell and Richard Erdman in Cry Danger (1951).     I neglect SBBN so often it seems pointless to even apologize anymore, but I promise, a couple of new posts are coming shortly, and finally (finally!) I’ll start on the series-shaped thing I spoke about, probably in the coming weeks. Thanks to the moons aligning just right, I’ve had over two weeks of deadlines which have clumped together like a JV soccer team, so on the days I’m not writing, I’m just munching on snacks and staring at movies and then forgetting to log them on Letterboxd. Even if it means hilarious amounts of B12, I will get my ass in gear and get some content up. But first, a little self pimpage in the form of a somewhat incomplete list of articles I’ve written around the interhole recently. If that’s not your thing, scroll down for other articles from around the web toward the bottom of this post — a lot of people have been writing a lot of neat stuff lately, and you’ll definitely want to check those out. — * Cry Danger (1951): I first saw this unheralded little noir about a year ago, when I saw people on Twitter under the #TCMParty hashtag mention a woman with an enormous black flower on her dress. Later I discovered the film was restored thanks, in part, to the 2010 For the Love of Film Blogathon, and recently I had the great luck to be able … Continue reading

No Foolin’: Marie Prevost Marathon April 16th on TCM!

Some exciting news from the world of lost silents: Courtesy Rhett Bartlett on Twitter and David Hudson’s Daily, news that EYE Filmmuseum in Amsterdam has discovered more silent films that were either thought lost or existed only in poor and incomplete prints. The L.A. Times article is here, and the entire list of films is here. Keen-eyed observers will note the Mack Sennett short “The Village Chestnut” (1918) is among the films. This has long been considered lost, though with the bog standard “it’s probably in an archive somewhere” rumors, which for once turned out to be right. Marie Prevost may be one of the Bathing Beauty extras, along with Phyllis Haver and Harriet Hammond, and it’ll be a real treat to finally have a chance to see this short. Above: Promotional still from “The Village Chestnut” (1918). The brown-haired girl in the far back may be Marie Prevost; compare to this famous portrait of Marie from about that time: And even more good news! TCM is hosting a day-long, eight-film Marie Prevost marathon on April 16th! Why April 16th? Why only one silent film and no Mack Sennett shorts? And why does this have to happen after I’ve had to give up cable because I can no longer afford it? No man can say. But let’s not look a gift marathon in the mouth; we should just enjoy what we’ve got, because what we’ve got is good. Here’s the low-down on all the Marie films being shown. All times … Continue reading