And so begins another year

Rather than dole out a best-of list of this and that, I thought I’d use the holiday time to finish up a number of reviews that should’ve been done with ages ago, and start work on some peripheral projects that have been in the planning stages for some time.

In terms of new reviews, I’ve uploaded a pair addressing the horror anthology - a sub-genre that may be one of the toughest to pull off because there’s always a weak segment that brings down the rest of the film.

In the case of Trapped Ashes (Lionsgate), the work of several marginalized directors was very disappointing. No doubt Sean S. Cunningham (Friday the 13th), Monte Hellman (Two-Lane Blacktop), and Ken Russell (Altered States) have been away far too long from feature-length filmmaking.

Cunningham can probably relax from the profits of the Friday the 13th franchise, and never have to worry about maintaining his directorial reputation (which was workmanlike at best, anyways), and Hellman seemed to have disappeared for almost 20 years before he popped up to direct a segment of this U.S.-Japanese co-production, but Ken Russell kind of disappeared into the whatever-happened-to ether because his brand of filmmaking went though various painful permutations and became, for whatever reason, redundant.

From a dynamic director who revitalized the documentary format in the early sixties to an enfant terrible during the sixties and seventies, Russell loved to shock audiences, but his brand of big budget style proved to be too costly, and he eventually had to settle for low budget productions before his output pretty much fizzled out. “The Girl with Golden Breasts” is another silly shocker, but Russell’s segment is a throwaway story that shows little evidence of the talent who appalled audiences with The Devils, or baffled them with The Boyfriend.

The other film, Visits: Hungry Ghost Anthology (Bone House Asia/Facets Multimedia), comes from Malaysia, and is centered around the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival. Shot on DV and using local talent, the theme is intriguing, but the end results are rather flat.

Also uploaded is a review of The Hills Run Red (Warner Bros.), the latest (and arguably most coherent) production from Dark Castle. Alongside the film review is an interview with composer Frederik Wiedmann, who discusses his years mentoring with John Frizzell, and using electronics and digital elements with finesse. (A review of the score will follow shortly.)

Lastly, there’s a review of Terminator: Salvation (Warner Bros.), which shows what happens when an unnecessary project is greenlit and directed by a director with little regard for nuances. I’m sure part of Avatar’s budget was covered by licensing the Terminator rights, but Salvation has no reason to exist. At all.

Coming next: reviews of Ti West’s House of the Devil, and the little-seen Trigger Man.

Oh yeah, and Happy New Year!



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