Friday, May 20, 2016

Worth Mentioning - From Laughter to Screams

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.

Brazilians fall in love, then come the monsters and the creeps.


Last month, I had the chance to visit the set of the Brazilian psychological horror film O Rastro (The Trace We Leave Behind), an awesome experience that I wrote about for Arrow in the Head. You can read the set visit report here.

O Rastro is the second movie from the production company Lupa Filmes, which is headed up by Malu Miranda and André Pereira. While that is their attempt to create a horror hit at home in Brazil and abroad, their first film is in the genre that seems to be the most popular in Brazil - it's a romantic comedy.

Directed by Pedro Amorim from a screenplay by Pereira that also received contributions from Amorim, Miranda, Vitor Leite, and Danilo Gentili, Mato Sem Cachorro (a.k.a. The Dognapper) stars Bruno Gagliasso as a shaggy-haired slacker in need of some maturing. The character is nicknamed Deco, but his full real name is gradually revealed to be André Pereira. Very interesting that Pereira would name the guy directly after himself. Gagliasso is a sex symbol in Brazil, but you wouldn't know it from his look and performance in this film; there is nothing sexy about Deco, he's pretty hopelessly dweeby.

Played by Leandra Leal, Deco's love interest in the film was named with a nod to Miranda - her name's not Malu, but she is Zoé Miranda. While Zoé works at a rather immature place, the edgy radio station Blast FM, at least she has a career, which gives her an edge over Deco in the adulthood department. After dating for a year and a half, Zoé leaves Deco because he won't grow up and try to live up to his potential.

Deco and Zoé are initially brought together by an encounter with a narcoleptic street dog who they adopt. As if getting dumped by Zoé wasn't bad enough, Deco is devastated even more when she gets their dog in the break-up and is hesitant to let him take care of it while she's busy, as if he hadn't already been its dad for a year and a half. Zoé has put Deco in the same category as other random people... So he decides to get back at her and get in his time with the dog by stealing it with the help of his wacky cousin Leléo (played by Danilo Gentili).

With several subplots spinning around the "steal the narcoleptic dog, win back the girl" core, Mato Sem Cachorro is a lot of fun and very much like a Brazilian Judd Apatow movie. As dirty as its sense of humor is, its heart is equally as strong. The characters are enjoyable to spend time with and have some hilarious interactions that are even funnier when you get the Brazilian cultural references or watch it with someone who can explain them to you. My Remake Comparison collaborator Priscilla clarified some things for me.

She also explained that "Mato Sem Cachorro" is a saying in Brazil that is basically the Portuguese version of someone being "up the creek without a paddle". In this case it means a hunter who is in the bush without a dog.

If you like movies along the lines of Apatow's Knocked Up or Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno, I would highly recommend that you track down a copy of Mato Sem Cachorro. The Region 4 DVD does have English subtitles.


Bearer of one of the most questionable titles in recent memory, Money Monster stars George Clooney as Lee Gates, the pompous host of a financial advice show, the type of which I've never watched, on the sort of network I never tune in to. Recently, there was some kind of computer error at a company that Gates advised his viewers to invest in, an error that caused $800 million of its shareholders' money to disappear in the blink of an eye. This means nothing to Gates, it's just numbers to look at during another day at work before moving on to the next stock tip.

Gates doesn't consider the people that have been devastated by the loss of all that money. One of them is a young working class man named Kyle Budwell (Jack O'Connell), who lost $60,000. That's pretty much just pocket change to Lee Gates, but to Kyle Budwell it's everything.

Armed with a gun and a bomb vest, Kyle invades the Money Monster studio and takes Gates hostage live on worldwide television. Kyle is lashing out for the little guy, demanding answers and an admission of guilt from the company that has just destroyed his life with what they claim was a computer glitch.

Guided through the situation with advice from the show's director Patty (Julia Roberts), who keeps in contact with him through his earpiece, surrounded by police with guns trained on them, Gates gradually comes around to seeing where Kyle is coming from and puts all his resources into getting answers from the negligent company. Sure, he's doing it at gunpoint while strapped to a bomb, but he is on Kyle's side.

Directed by Jodie Foster, Money Monster may tap into the frustrations of a lot of people with its anti-corporation, "stand up for the little guy" story, but it's not overbearing or preachy. Above all, this is a piece of entertainment, a thriller that offers up a mixture of intense situations and some fun moments as it motors through its running time.

Clooney delivers a solid performance as the flawed character of Lee Gates; he's an ass, but he's your ass. Roberts provides solid support as the soothing but determined Patty. You know those actors and what they bring to the table. The real revelation of this film for me was Jack O'Connell. Clearly I need to watch the Angelina Jolie/Coen brothers movie Unbroken that he stars in - I've meant to get around to it, I just haven't yet. I found O'Connell to be incredible and captivating as Kyle, really getting across the soul of the character and the pain and confused anger he's feeling. The scenario and the better known actors drew me in, but it's O'Connell who really kept me invested in what was happening.


If you've looked around the Life Between Frames archives, you may have noticed that I love a good kaiju movie. I've written about several of them, including every Godzilla film and most of the movies that are related to them. So it may seem kind of strange that I never really felt drawn to the J.J. Abrams-produced, Matt Reeves-directed, Drew Goddard-scripted kaiju movie Cloverfield. I didn't see it in the theatre when it was released back in 2008, perhaps because I was already over the found footage style that it employs. There was a lot of hype for the movie in the build up to its release and a lot of praise for it once it was out in the world, but when I finally got around to watching it I was underwhelmed. For eight years, I had a rather low opinion of Cloverfield.

When its "blood relative" film 10 Cloverfield Lane was nearing release earlier this year, I revisited Cloverfield, and with that viewing the movie received a boost in my esteem. Eight years later, I enjoyed it much more.

I am still very much over the found footage style, but this time I felt that it actually fit this particular movie - Cloverfield is a rare instance when the concept that the events are being filmed by the characters works for the situation and does exactly what you would hope this style would do but so rarely does: it makes the events we witness more effective, more exciting and more horrifying. It makes it more real, and puts the viewer in the action from the perspective of people dealing with some incredible circumstances.

At first, things are being filmed because the person with the camera is attending a going away party for a friend. They're supposed to be shooting fun times and friendly messages. But this party is disrupted when a giant monster starts rampaging through the city. New York City. While this creature smashes its way through the buildings and bridges and the military fills the streets to do battle with it, a group of the partiers stick together as they try to survive the night. Making survival even more complicated is the fact that the characters aren't trying to escape for most of the film, they're actually going further into dangerous territory in an effort to rescue a trapped friend.

The giant monster itself really isn't all that impressive; we don't get to see much of it and when we do see it I don't like the design of it. We mostly just watch as the characters deal with the consequences of its destructiveness. The most interesting thing about the monster is the fact that it has strange parasites on it that drop off and attack people on their own. Getting bitten by one of these parasites has a serious side effect: not long after receiving the bite, a person will literally explode.

The characters are pretty likeable for the most part, especially those played by T.J. Miller (whose role is mostly voiceover, since he has the camera) and Lizzy Caplan. If nothing else, at least this movie allowed me to experience an exchange between these two that includes the line "Are you aware of Garfield?" Also appreciated is the fact that the film moves along at a breakneck pace on its race toward the end credits, which are rolling before 80 minutes have even passed.

I still don't think Cloverfield is a great film, it will never be one that I'll feel like gushing over, but it does provide some good fun.

The following review originally appeared on

13 CAMERAS (2015)

Written and directed by first-time filmmaker Victor Zarcoff, 13 Cameras (which was formerly going by the title Slumlord) features one of the most disgusting human beings I have ever witnessed in a film. That's Gerald, the slumlord himself, as played by Neville Archambault. From the slack-jawed pervert expression on the elderly man's face as he spies on his tenants through the cameras he has installed in their home to the fact that one of those cameras is even inside the toilet bowl, Gerald is not nice to watch. This isn't a mark in the negative column, but a testament to how effectively Zarcoff and Archambault brought this character to the screen. You're supposed to be repulsed by him, that's why characters comment that he smells like "dirty diaper" and "spoiled mayonnaise", and the director and star have done a great job making him as gross as possible to elicit revulsion.

Sharing the screen with this shambling, gravelly-voiced creep are PJ McCabe and Brianne Moncrief as Ryan and Claire, a young couple expecting their first child who become the subjects of Gerald's voyeurism when they rent the camera-ridden property from him. They unwittingly provide their landlord with quite the drama to watch, as Ryan is cheating on his pregnant wife with his assistant Hannah (Sarah Baldwin). Claire is out quite often, getting prepared for their new arrival, which gives Ryan the chance to bring Hannah over to their home - and provides Gerald with some bonus nudity and sex to watch.

As bad as Gerald is, Ryan is almost as repugnant in his own way. A good portion of the film is made up of scenes in which Ryan is being a douchebag to his wife, his girlfriend, or both, and McCabe does a fine job of making his character come off like someone you'd like to punch in the face.

Of the three leads, Claire is the lone character of virtue, and although Moncrief has less to do than Archambault and McCabe because of this and doesn't get much chance to imbue her character with a great deal of personality, she is a heroine that you root for and hope to see escape this horrible situation and lousy marriage.

Gradually, Gerald begins to expand his criminal activities beyond the voyeurism. When he starts soundproofing the house's basement (which he had told Ryan and Claire was just a closet) and buying the strongest dog chain he can find, you know things are going to go far south.

Other projects may have used the hidden camera concept as an excuse to be found footage, and while there are a lot of shots through the hidden cameras here, thankfully they are mixed with traditional filmmaking. Zarcoff did, however, fully embrace the voyeurism aspect, the idea that you're spying on the lives of these people and not every moment you witness is going to be super exciting. Although the running time comes in under 90 minutes, 13 Cameras has a deliberate pace, moving along with an ominous, droning score that helps build tension and dread even when we're just watching characters go through the steps of their day.

Because of the pace and tone, I would not recommend attempting to watch this movie when you're feeling tired. That caveat aside, it is most certainly a movie I would recommend checking out, as it is a disturbing thriller that marks a solid debut for Zarcoff. With a low budget, minimal cast, and just a couple locations, he has accomplished something very unsettling with 13 Cameras, both through the style of filmmaking and the perfect casting of its antagonist. Watching Gerald is an extremely unpleasant experience, but this movie does what it does so well that it may draw me back for repeat viewings to be troubled by him all over again. I just need some time to recover first.

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