Thursday, January 3, 2013

Four Very Different Films

The Disappearance of McKinley Nolan is a documentary which traces one man’s search for his brother, a soldier who went missing during the Vietnam War. By ‘missing’ I don’t mean MIA; Nolan defected to the Viet-Cong, apparently because he fell for a native woman (never mind his wife and son at home) and never returned to the states. He participated in propaganda efforts in Hanoi, told possibly apocryphal stories of killing American MP’s, and was rumored to have been killed by the Kymer Rouge in Cambodia following the unification of Vietnam.  Small wonder then that the US government hasn’t gone the extra mile to check on his well-being, and his family’s anger about that, and their mild belief that a grand conspiracy is afoot,  strikes me as absurd.

 Not that I blame them for venturing to Southeast Asia to look for him; whatever he’s done, he is still their kin.  I won’t spoil the result of the search, but regardless of what happens in the end, the trip fleshes out the story of his post-defection life, as his brother encounters his friends, fellow VC, and even his Vietnamese step-son.

It’s a sad film, but a good one.  Grade: B+

VHS is a collection of ‘found footage’ horror shorts held together under the narrative guise of being part of disturbing collection of videos in a dead man’s house. There’s quite a wide range of quality between the best and the worst here. “Tuesday the 17th’, about a picnic on a lake that goes awry, is better than the work of any fourth grader I've ever met; that’s about the extent of my praise for it.  And yes, I caught the not-so subtitle homage to '80's slasher films. Big wup. 

On the other hand , segments like 'The Sick Thing that Happened to Emily When She was Younger’, about a woman whose apartment may be haunted, and “10/31/98” about an ill-fated Halloween  night, are worth the price of a rental  The movie is hard to watch though, with the signature choppy 'found footage' camera work and a confusing overall structure.

Grade: C

Resident Evil: Retribution is a mindless, video game romp through a zombie infested former Soviet submarine base. There’ s not much to recommend this movie aside from the fact that somehow, someway, even as you’re a little embarrassed to be watching it, you’re also very entertained. Grade: C

The Good Doctor stars Orlando Bloom as a socially isolated intern who becomes infatuated with a young female patient and sabotages her treatment so that she can remain in his care. It’s a frightfully boring film that slogs forward at a tortoise’s pace, and despite two valid efforts I could never watch it start to finish.  You may think that disqualifies me from rendering a true verdict, but I think the evidence was clear. Grade: D

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