Reviewed by The Foywonder
Starring Brendan Michael Coughlin, Patrick Scott Lewis, Mary Alexandra Stiefvater, Katie Lowes
Directed by John Rebel
Two couples jockeying for the cover of “Too Stupid to Live” Magazine decide to take a detour through a remote stretch of California forest. In no time their mini-van gets a flat. A grizzly bear wanders nearby. One of them panics, whips out a handgun, and unloads an entire clip into it. Mama bear arrives to find her cub dead. Now these four have to contend with a bigger, meaner, angrier bear with divine retribution on her mind, and they have no means to defend themselves since numbnuts already pumped all his bullets into the younger bear.
Bear is rather bare bones plot-wise and almost as simplistic as its title. There is only so much you can do with a cast of four, a wrecked mini-van, and a live bear in a small section of woodland.
The crux of the non-bear related drama centers around a successful stockbroker older brother constantly belittling his partying kid brother to give up his pipe dream of becoming a famous rock musician in favor of getting a real job, and while he’s at it, he might want to consider getting a girlfriend that’s more marriage material (that last part won’t be an issue for very long). For a while there it seemed like these two brothers were in a race to see who could be the bigger jerk.
Bear wastes almost no time getting right to these four broken down and trapped in their mini-van under siege by a pissed off bear. Entertaining enough; yet, the dilemma I found myself facing was whether or not I was supposed to be rooting for the people or the bear. Mama bear is right to be enraged, and all four initially came across as obnoxious yokels for whom grisly death would be doing the world a favor.
Let’s sample some of the actual dialogue during the first half of their bear attack ordeal.
“Go! Go! Go! Go!”
“Move! Move! Move!”
“That’s a big bear!”
“Did you hear that?”
“What are you doing?”
“Would you two little bitches shut up?”
“Suck my dick!” – spoken by a female character
“I’m going to eat your babies! Fuck you! Fuck you!”
“I’m going to skull fuck your stupid fucking face!”
There were moments where I realized what a remake of William Girdler’s Grizzly would sound like if written by Rob Zombie.
This quartet’s poor decision-making skills also left me wanting to slap my forehead. They had an opportunity to ram the bear to death with their vehicle as it was pressed against a tree, swiping at one of them that had climbed up to get away, but instead they just back the car up to the tree close enough for the person to jump down onto the roof to safety. Minutes later, now inside the wrecked mini-van the bear just toppled over before heading off to take a smoke break or something, the chance to flag down a passing truck is missed because these dolts try to get the driver’s attention by staying inside the trashed car yelling and beating on the insides making muffled noises rather than actually getting out to flag the motorist down. After all of this has occurred, they’re remarkably casual about their predicament until ‘Smokey the Death Wish Bear’ comes back to get the job done.
To my dismay, the fast-paced opening led to a fairly uneventful midsection that very much began to lose me. To my surprise, I got sucked back in for the finale by some genuine pathos that somehow made me care about the fate of characters I previously found detestable.
The younger brother we’re told watches a lot of TV animal show, which is how he knows so much about the nature of bears and their spiritual significance according to Native American legend. The latter sounds a lot like superstitious mumbo jumbo until it becomes apparent that this bear is smarter than your average bear and isn’t just out for mere bloody vengeance; it actually wants them to confront their own deep, dark secrets before becoming human picnic baskets. It sounds silly, and to a certain extent it is, but somehow it actually worked for me and added some much needed emotional weight to what had up to that point been just another nature gone amok movie about stupid people in the woods getting killed by a vicious animal.
Both a positive and a negative is the choice to use an actual live bear throughout the film. The movie is called Bear, and you get a bear and lots of it. However, while a live bear adds a certain degree of realism, it also detracts a bit when it comes time for characters to fight back or get mauled because of the restrictions it puts on actors interacting with a living, breathing grizzly bear.
For all its flaws I still found this low budget shot-on-digital Jaws-with-claws a mildly entertaining diversion. It probably helped that Bear was the sixth film I viewed in a 48-hour period. That this helped should tell you something about how entertaining the other five were.
2 1/2 out of 5
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IAMX’s Alive in New Light Review – A Dark, Hypnotic, and Stunning Musical Endeavor
Recording eight albums is an achievement no matter the artist, group, or band. This is especially true for Chris Corner’s IAMX, his solo project after the trip hop group Sneaker Pimps, which has enchanted listeners since 2004’s Kiss + Swallow with its dark electronic aesthetic. There’s something fascinating about the music Corner puts out as IAMX. Perhaps it’s the underlying melancholy that seems to pervade the music, almost certainly a result of the musician’s battle with depression and chronic insomnia [Source]. Perhaps it’s the unexpected melodies that reveal themselves with each new measure. Whatever it is, IAMX’s music is a constant delight.
On Alive in New Light, Corner reveals that his eighth album was a product he created as a way of “…breaking free from demons that have long plagued him,” per an official press release. Strangely enough, this uplifting attitude may easily be overlooked but repeat listens unveil a sense of hope and wonder that are simply breathtaking. The title track echoes with almost angelic choir pads that positively shine as Corner exultingly cries in a shimmering falsetto, “I’m alive in new light!” This comes after the Depeche Mode-esque “Stardust”, which offers the first collaboration with Kat Von D, whose pure voice is a beautiful addition to the pulsating track.
The third track, “Break The Chains”, has an opening that immediately called to mind Birds of Tokyo’s “Discoloured”, which is meant as a compliment. It’s followed by the Nine Inch Nails influenced “Body Politics”, which meshes Corner’s crooning vocals with a 90’s industrial backdrop. “Exit” has an almost sinister progression lurking in the background that builds to an aggressive, in-your-face third act. The cinematic Middle Eastern flairs of “Stalker” mutate effortlessly into a heartbeat pulse that features back-and-forth vocals between Corner and Von D. The haunted circus vibe that permeates through “Big Man” is mirrored by its playful gothic aura, ghostly “oohs” and “aahs” sprinkled carefully here and there.
While the album has been a delight up to this point, it’s the final two tracks that took my breath away and left me stunned. “Mile Deep Hollow” builds layer after layer while Corner passionately cries out, “So thank you/you need to know/that you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow/and I love you/you brought me home/because you dragged me out/of a mile deep hollow.” The way the song’s melodies back these wonderfully uplifting lyrics feels grand and epic, as though a journey is coming to an end, which is where “The Power and the Glory” comes in. Far more subdued, it’s a beautiful song that feels almost like a religious experience, a hymn of a soul that is desperate to claw its way to salvation and escape a life of pain and darkness.
What makes Alive in New Light so wonderful is how much there is to experience. I got the album and listened to it no less than five times in a row without pause. I simply couldn’t turn it off because each return revealed something new in the music. Corner also makes fantastic use of Von D’s vocals, carefully placing them so as to make them a treat and not a commonplace certainty.
While some may be disappointed that there are only nine tracks, each of the songs is carefully and meticulously crafted to be as powerful and meaningful as possible. It really is a stunning accomplishment and I’m nothing short of blown away by how masterfully Alive in New Light plays out.
IAMX’s Alive in New Light is a triumph of music. Full of beauty and confidence, it doesn’t forget the foundation that fans have come to know and love for over a decade but instead embraces that comfortable darkness with open arms. Corner states that this album was a way to break free from his demons. It certainly feels like he’s made peace with them.
The Hatred Review – A History Lesson Dug Up From The Depths Of Hell
Starring Zelda Adams, Lulu Adams, John Law
Directed by John Law
I don’t know about the scholastic interests the masses had (or have) that read all of the killer nuggets that get cranked out on this site, but when I was an academic turd, one of my true passions was history, and it was one of the only subjects that managed to hold my interest, and when the opportunity arose to check out John Law’s ultra-nightmarish feature, The Hatred – I was ready to crack the books once again.
The setting is the Blackfoot Territory in the late 1800s, and the pains of a lengthy conflict have taken their toll on the remaining soldiers as food has become scarce, and the film picks up with soldiers on the march in the brutal cold and snow covered mountainside. In tow is a P.O.W. (Law), and the decision is made by the soldiers to execute him in earnest instead of having to shorten their rations by feeding him, so he is then hung (pretty harshly done), and left to rot as the uniformed men trudge along. A short time later the group encounters a small family on the fringes of the territory, and when the demands for food are rebuked, the slaughter is on and the only survivor is a young girl (Adams) who prays to an oblivious god that she can one day reap the seeds of revenge upon those who’ve murdered her family. We all know that there are usually two sides to any story, and when the good ear isn’t listening, the evil one turns its direction towards those who need it most, and that’s when the Devil obliges.
The answer to the young girl’s prayers comes in the resurrection of the prisoner that was hung a short time ago, and he has been dubbed “Vengeance” – together their goal will be achieved by harshly dishing out some retribution, and the way it’s presented is drawn-out, almost like you’re strapped into the front-row pew of a hellfire-cathedral and force-fed the sermon of an evil voice from the South side of the tracks. It’s vicious and beautiful all at once, Law’s direction gives this visually-striking presentation all the bells and whistles to please even the harshest of critics (hell, you’re reading the words of one right now). The performances, while a bit stoic in nature, still convey that overall perception of a wrong that demands to be righted, no matter how morally mishandled it might be. Overall, I can absolutely recommend The Hatred for not only those wanting a period-piece with ferocious-artistry, but for others who continue to pray with no response, and are curious to see what the other side can offer.
The Hatred is a visually-appealing look into the eyes of animus, and all of the beauty of returning the harm to those who have awarded it to others.
Before We Vanish Review – A Quirky and Original Take on Alien Invasions
Starring Masami Nagasawa, Ryûhei Matsuda, Hiroki Hasegawa
Written by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
During the J-horror rampage of the late 90’s and early 2000’s, Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s Kairo (aka Pulse). A dark, depressing, and morose tale of ghosts that use the internet to spread across the world, the film’s almost suffocatingly gloomy atmosphere pervaded across every frame of the film. Because of my love of this film, I was eager to see the director’s upcoming movie Sanpo Suru Shinryakusha (aka Before We Vanish), which follows three aliens who recently arrived on Earth and are preparing to bring about an alien invasion that will wipe humanity from the face of the planet. Imagine my surprise when the film turned out to be barely a horror title but was instead a quirky and surreal dramedy that tugged at my heartstrings.
Admittedly, I was thrown completely for a loop as the film begins with a scene that feels perfectly at home in a horror film. Akira (Tsunematsu), a teenage girl, goes home and we enter moments later to blood splashed on the walls and floor and bodies strewn about. However, the disturbing visuals are spun around as the young girl walks down a highway, her clothes and face streaked with blood, Yusuke Hayashi’s music taking on a lighthearted, almost jaunty attitude. From there, we learn of the other two aliens (yes, she’s an alien and it’s not a secret or a twist, so no spoilers there): Amano (Takasugi), who is a young man that convinces a sleazy reporter, Sakurai (Hasegawa), of his true form and tasks Sakurai with being his guide, and Shinji (Matsuda), the estranged husband of Narumi (Nagasawa).
What sets these aliens, and their mission, apart from other invasion thrillers is their means of gathering information. They’re not interested in meeting leaders nor do they capture people for nefarious experimentations. Rather, they steal “concepts” from the minds of people, such as “family”, “possession”, or “pest”. Once these concepts are taken, the victim no longer has that value in their mind, freed from its constraints.
While this may seem like a form of brainwashing, Kurosawa instead plays with the idea that maybe knowing too much is what holds us back from true happiness. A man obsessed with staking claim to his family home learns to see the world outside of its walls when “possession” is no longer a part of his life. A touchy boss enters a state of child-like glee after “work” has been taken. That being said, there are other victims who are left as little more than husks.
Overly long at 130 minutes, the film does take its time showing the differences between the aliens and their individual behaviors. Amano and Akira are casually ruthless, willing to do whatever it takes to send a beacon to begin the alien invasion, no matter how many must die along the way, while Shinji is the curious and almost open-minded one, whose personal journey finds him at one point asking a priest to envision and describe “love”, a concept that is so individualistic and personal that it can’t be taken, much less fathomed, by this alien being. While many of these scenes are necessary, they could have easily been edited down to shave 10-15 minutes, making the film flow a bit more smoothly.
While the film begins on a dark note, there is a scene in the third act that is so pure and moving that tears immediately filled my eyes and I choked up a little. It’s a moment of both sacrifice and understanding, one that brings a recurring thread in the story full circle.
With every passing minute, Before We Vanish makes it clear that it’s much more horror-adjacent than horror. An alien invasion thriller with ultimate stakes, it will certainly have appeal to genre fans. That being said, those who go in expecting action, violence, and terror will certainly be disappointed. But those whose mind is a bit more open to a wider range of possibilities will find a delightful story that attempts to find out what it means to be human, even if we have to learn the lesson from an alien.
Before We Vanish is a beautiful, wonderful tale that explores what it means to be human when faced with the threat of extinction.
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