Film Review: A Visit From the Incubus (2001)

Release Date: October, 2001
Directed by: Anna Biller
Written by: Anna Biller
Music by: Anna Biller
Cast: Anna Biller, Jared Sanford, Natalia Schroeder

Anna Biller Productions, 26 Minutes

Review:

I didn’t discover Anna Biller until I came across The Love Witch a few years ago. I really liked that movie in regards to its style and overall tone. Since then, I’ve become aware of an earlier film she did called Viva but it’s still in my queue to watch. In the meantime, I saw that this very early short film from her dropped on the Criterion Channel, so I wanted to check it out.

Even though this predates her only other film that I’ve seen, thus far, it’s still damn impressive for a lot of the same things that I adored in The Love Witch.

First off, Biller does a stupendous job in crafting the world she wants her films to live in. Between the costumes, the set design and the use of colors and lighting, her films look otherworldly and like real throwbacks to the motion pictures that have influenced her personal style.

Being that this was a musical horror western, it sort of marries those elements and it does so quite well. At the very least, these are fun films to look at and they are pretty lively.

Now the acting is over the top and somewhat hokey but I’m pretty sure that’s the intent. I wouldn’t call this a comedy or a parody of what it emulates or tries to channel, the acting just works well and feels organic within the overall presentation.

I also really dug the musical numbers. They kept the film energetic and jovial and built towards a good conclusion.

Overall, Anna Biller has several different creative talents. I mean, she really does everything in her films and I think that she does a fantastic job in getting her vision across. While her films might not be everyone’s cup of tea, they’re beautiful and hard to turn away from.

While looking deeper into this in an effort to write this review, I saw that Biller has three other short films that came out before this one. I hope that they are also streaming somewhere in the future.

Rating: 6.75/10
Pairs well with: other Anna Biller films: Viva and The Love Witch.

Film Review: The Hug (2018)

Release Date: October 1st, 2018
Directed by: Jack Bishop
Written by: Jack Bishop, Justin Nijm
Cast: Nick Armstrong, Roman Dean George

Hulu, 5 Minutes

Review:

“Grrreat! But first you gotta come give me a big fat hug!” – Pandory the Panda

I kind of just came across this on Hulu, as it was suggested to me. I thought it was brand new but apparently this popped up around Halloween, last year.

It’s a pretty quick short film with a simple premise and its really just one scene.

Still, it’s effective in that its kind of cool and pretty creepy.

There’s nothing that’s going to change the game with this but I think that the killer animatronic creature was a good idea, as it taps into what every kid of the ’80s and ’90s feared while looking into the dead eyes of Chuck E. Cheese and his furry robot friends.

This is an idea that could be expanded on though for a good 90 minute horror film. Snot-nosed shitty kids break into a pizza palace to have a party and trash the place, then they get locked in with the animatronic cast of the show and suddenly you’ve got Chopping Mall in Chuck E. Cheese.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: The Banana Splits Movie.

Film Review: Roundhay Garden Scene (1888)

Release Date: October 14th, 1888 (UK)
Directed by: Louis Aimé Augustin Le Prince
Cast: Annie Hartley, Adolphe Le Prince, Joseph Whitley, Sarah Whitley

Whitley Partners, Original length 4.33 seconds, 52 frames at 12fps

Review:

How do you review something that is less than five seconds long? Let alone something completely devoid of plot? Well, you can’t.

The reason I am talking about this film though is due to its historical significance.

It is the oldest surviving film, at least that anyone knows about. Maybe there are some other experimental pieces buried in a European cellar somewhere but who’s to say?

Now some people may say that 1877’s Sallie Gardner at a Gallop is the first “motion picture” but it wasn’t shot with a single camera, it was shot with multiple cameras with each photo frame being used like a flip book or animation.

Louis Le Prince, this film’s director, was a French artist and inventor and this short clip was a test of his newly invented motion picture camera. While his invention and this film are significant, Le Prince didn’t have a direct influence on what would become the motion picture industry.

Le Prince also made a few other short film clips but two years after this experiment, he vanished… literally. No one knows what happened to him but it’s suspected that he committed suicide due to impending bankruptcy.

Some have thought that this film may be cursed. Because in addition to Le Prince’s disappearance, Sarah Whitley, one of the people in the scene, died ten days after filming. Le Prince’s son, Adolphe, was also shot to death. However, that happened a few years after he testified in court in defense of his fahter’s inventions against Thomas Edison. But some people like to connect all of this to the film clip like it’s some 1880s Poltergeist.

Anyway, the clip is pretty basic and straightforward, as you can see for yourself below. It’s not really reviewable but it is worth shedding some light on for its place in early motion picture history.

Rating: NR/10
Pairs well with: other very early and experimental films.

Film Review: The Peanut Vendor (1933)

Release Date: April 28th, 1933
Directed by: Dave Fleischer
Music by: various, Armida
Cast: Armida

Fleischer Studios, 2 Minutes

Review:

Experimental films from early film history are always interesting to watch, at least for me.

The Peanut Vendor is a two minute animation test, mixed and synced up to music.

I think that its synced pretty well for the time and the animation of the monkey man’s lips are done rather well.

The monkey peanut vendor sings and dances to a song about peanuts. The movement is good but the character is fairly creepy, as he has really long arms and a detachable tail that he uses to dry his butt like a bathroom towel.

I was lured into checking this out due to seeing GIFs of it in various places recently. Without context, those GIFs are the things of nightmares. Hell, with context, it’s still creepy.

However, it’s intended to be a strange but lighthearted number and I think it succeeds at that.

Granted, even in 1933, I bet there were some people that ended up getting terrifying Slenderman dreams and maybe this is where that iconic boogeyman came from.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: other experimental short films of the era and earlier.

Film Review: Black Hole (2007)

Release Date: 2007 (Internet)
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Written by: Rupert Sanders, Milo Ross
Based on: Black Hole by Charles Burns
Cast: Chris Marquette, Whitney Able, Diane Gaeta, Noel Fisher, Nate Mooney

11 Minutes

Review:

This was a short film done by Rupert Sanders, who later directed Snow White and the Huntsman and the live action Ghost In the Shell. This was made as a sort of demo to show how he would adapt Charles Burns’ cult classic comic book, Black Hole.

Sanders released this on his website in 2007 but it didn’t even seem to pick up much steam or to be distributed around the web until 2010 or so. I didn’t know of its existence and I was a pretty big fan of the comic.

It’s not a very good adaptation and this only reflects a very small portion of what the story is. It crams a lot of things into a small space but it also does that so subtly that this feels more like a David Lynch mindfuck sequence than something with any sort of narrative or point.

The cinematography is school book Fincher, which everyone and their mother was employing at the time.

The body horror elements feel very Cronenberg and being that I already named three iconic directors, you can probably see that this sort of just borrows from several more accomplished talents and lacks a voice of its own.

I’m not try to shit on what Rupert Sanders did here but I’ve got to call it like I see it and as a fan of the original work, this doesn’t even hit the right notes, tonally or aesthetically.

All that being said, I don’t even know if I want a legitimate live action adaptation of this story. It works wonderful for the original medium that it was intended and I’m kind of sick of everything needing to be adapted into a live action film in order to somehow be legitimized within the framework modern culture.

I’d rather directors come up with new ideas for the medium of film. This is not a new idea nor is it a new approach to filmmaking. Everything here is borrowed and just because you have four really good ingredients, that doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to have a really good casserole.

Rating: 5.25/10
Pairs well with: late ’90s to early ’00s teen horror.

Film Review: Captain EO (1986)

Also known as: Captain EO and the Space Knights (working title)
Release Date: September 12th, 1986 (Walt Disney World – Epcot Center, Florida)
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola
Written by: George Lucas, Rusty Lemorande, Francis Ford Coppola
Music by: James Horner, Michael Jackson
Cast: Michael Jackson, Anjelica Huston, Dick Shawn, Tony Cox, Debbie Lee Carrington, Cindy Sorenson, Gary DePew

Three D D D Productions, Eastman Kodak Company, Lucasfilm, Walt Disney, Buena Vista Pictures, 17 Minutes

Review:

“Now listen, the command considers us a bunch of losers, but we’re gonna do it right this time because we’re the best. If not, we’ll be drummed out of the corps.” – Captain EO

Captain EO is a pretty bizarre short film but it wasn’t made to be viewed in a traditional sense or to even have a traditional narrative. It was made to be an attraction at Walt Disney World and Disneyland. Being an attraction it had to be short enough to keep the asses moving in and out of seats.

It was also made to be 3D. While that was hardly a new concept in 1986, it was a concept that had sort of faded away and was somewhat new to a generation of ’80s kids that weren’t old enough to go to the theater to see things like Friday the 13th, Part III in 3D.

However, this was actually promoted as being the first film in “4D”, as it used special effects, lighting, smoke and lasers within the physical theater to enhance the overall viewing experience in the theme park.

The film does start out like a fantasy sci-fi space opera but quickly evolves into an extended music video for the Michael Jackson song “We Are Here to Change the World”. It also ends on another, more famous Jackson tune “Another Part of Me”.

Now this came out when Michael Jackson was literally the biggest thing in the world, so a partnership with Disney was huge in 1986. Add in the fact that this film was directed by Francis Ford Coppola, written by George Lucas, whose Lucasfilm provided the effects, had costumes designed by the team behind Cats and had it’s makeup overseen by the legendary Rick Baker, this project was a pretty big f’n deal.

Also, James Horner, just coming off of his success with Star Trek II and III, provided the orchestral score for the film.

Production was a bit of a clusterfuck and the process took a lot of time with several different groups trying to fix some of the film’s issues but on screen, most of it came off well.

The narrative is pretty incomprehensible and you have to severely suspend disbelief when Captain EO uses dancing and singing to turn an evil space queen and her minions into nice people but when I was a kid, I totally bought into it and it worked. Seeing this again, as an adult, it’s a pretty wonky and strange narrative but I can’t deny the commanding presence that Michael Jackson has on screen. It’s not too dissimilar from his music video for “Thriller”.

Captain EO is a unique experience. It might not be a great one but it’s certainly interesting enough to sit through for just 17 minutes.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker and lengthier music videos like Thriller and Ghosts.

Documentary Review: Ferrell Takes the Field (2015)

Release Date: September 12th, 2015
Directed by: Brian McGinn
Music by: John Jennings Boyd, Brian Langsbard
Cast: Will Ferrell

Funny or Die, Gary Sanchez Productions, Major League Baseball, HBO, 49 Minutes

Review:

This is a documentary of something real but being that this is focused on Will Ferrell, he plays it up almost as if it’s a mockumentary. I get that he feels the need to be funny but I think this would have been cooler had it actually documented this event with a more realistic approach.

Still, this is fairly entertaining.

I’m pretty sure that HBO wanted to make this into more of a spectacle for ratings purposes and I guess it works for Ferrell fans.

This short film follows Will Ferrell as he plays ten different positions for ten different Major League Baseball teams over five Spring Training games in the Cactus League. The purpose behind the stunt is so that he can raise money for cancer charities.

For fans of baseball, especially Spring Training, this is pretty cool to watch, as you see Ferrell travel Arizona and visit different ballparks. Being a Floridian, I would have rather he done this in the Grapefruit League but Arizona is cool too.

It’s fun seeing Ferrell interact with real MLB players and managers but as a documentary, this doesn’t do much to make me care about his charitable work and the true meaning behind this publicity stunt. I’m glad that Ferrell and company looked to be enjoying themselves but something more organic and natural probably would have benefited the film’s audience and the charitable work more.

I get that Will Ferrell is a funny guy but he didn’t need to be “in character” from start to finish. Show your human side, man. Be natural for once and show the world why this actually means so much to you. We can still laugh along the way because the humor still would have surfaced.

Rating: 5.5/10
Pairs well with: Will Ferrell’s sports comedies.