Review: Three films directed by brother teams


Directed by the Paz Brothers

After 14, most of us aren't big fans of horror films.  But as often gauche as JeruZalem is in parts, it benefits from a quirky POV as the protagonist female uses Google Glass for all the proceedings.  Despite some obvious genre tropes – infected friend dragging along instead of being shot, screams where no one would want to make a sound, a supposedly lost brother coming back to convenient view, a creepy "rescue" scene in a Jerusalem insane asylum (we have all seen that building exterior, and pray the insides are not what is depicted here) – the film has some idiosyncratic charms, chief of which are many scenes of lesser familiarity in the catacombs, areas not often seen by tourists to this incredible country.  The facial recognition data identifying known, acceptable people versus unacceptable appearing onscreen throughout is a nice touch.

Two grain-fed millennial girls from Corntown, USA visit the land of milk and honey.  They meet two men and immediately swan around with them, though one is skeevy and up to no good, and the other is a bland drip.  Premonitions of doom follow almost immediately.  Run for your souls!

The basis for the grotty threat is from Jeremiah 19, in the Talmud: There are three gates to hell: One is in the desert, one supposedly in the ocean ... and the last one is in Jerusalem.

Though not all audiences like this film – some guys got really annoyed as the film proceeded, and their view was not grace-noted and  hosannas – it is actually kind of more unexpected viewability than you get from most horror films, and there's all that terrific footage of out of the way sites in the ancient capital city.  There's less slashing and bleeding than the norm, and there's a lot of biblical gobbledygook, but in the end, if you stick it out, it is sort of an apocalyptic take on a gloomy genre.  There are unlikely giant monsters, random demons and zombie-ish creatures, even the manly few IDF regulars, who act in ways the IDF doesn't and wouldn't – and explanations are nowhere to be found.  In terms of on-screen nightmares, a good rule of thumb is less is definitely more.  But kudos, at least, to the directors for utilizing the holy city for more than sanctimony.

The unrealized potential for something dark, mysterious, and of course diabolical as hell found a great locus in Jerusalem.  But the main character, Sarah, is irritating; she cries and whines endlessly.  Her blonde friend is more interesting and less grating on the nerves.  The Google Glass thing worked for visual interest and up-to-date techniques in a current film (although it might irk some, as the actual Google Glass invading our restaurants and businesses bug most of us already).

If you've been to Jerusalem, you'll enjoy the cheap revisit travelogue.  Lots of delicious footage.

Despite its winning elements, the movie has inconsistencies, imbalance, a wholly surface take on Jewish mythology and mysticism, and a plot that veers from gimmicky to c'mon! incredible.

The obvious evil "things" do not get offed, and one principal killing himself does not prove or teach anything.  In the end, JeruZalem left viewers asking for more, explanation or postscript, with an ending that was supposed to be shocking.  Judgment Day ends up not as cataclysmic as we expected.

Nina, Forever
Directed by Ben and Chris Blaine 

Another horror film directed by brothers.

Rob's longtime girlfriend, the aforementioned Nina, dies in a car crash.  He tries, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide.  Soon, he picks up with a coworker at the market, Holly, a step down in the prestige area, but a woman with whom he has a degree of simpatico.

The film is billed as a gore-fest but is fairly droll for the first half, as every time Rob and Holly get it on, Nina manages to climb through the mattress (yup) and wreck both the sheets and their love-making.

Nothing much goes on aside from Rob trying to convince Nina she is in fact dead, and he is continuing his life, and please leave him be..

Nina looks like Carrie after the bucket fell on her.  Every scene, Nina is ravaged, scarred, tattered, and bloody, but committed to her still living love.  The amusement wears thin about halfway through.

A Johnny one-note film, featuring unnecessary nudity, ruined Wamsuttas, and BeautyRest mattresses.

HAIL, Caesar 

Directed by the Coen Brothers

Yet another brother directorial team.

Any Coen Brothers opus is usually a cause for celebration.  Not this time.

The vaunted star lineup, including Scarlett Johansson, Jonah Hill, Ralph Fiennes, Channing Tatum, and George Clooney, often makes for mere five-minute cameos with scant recurrence.  It is a popular entertainment meme – a movie within a movie – but while you probably have a smile ready on your face, the amusing moments are not consistent or frequent enough to repay the excitement attendant on other Coen Brothers opera – Raising Arizona; O, Brother, Where Art Thou?; Barton Fink; Miller's Crossing; Burn After Reading; and the classics, The Big Lebowski and Fargo.

There are a few chuckles.  The black comedy is there on and off.  Channing Tatum is outstanding singing, dancing, tapping, and betraying.  Scarlett is great for her 75 seconds on screen.  George Clooney is bankably goofy and keeps a straight face amid  mayhem, understated but appropriate.

Not one of the Coen greats, however, for all the PR spin and hoopla.

It's not funny enough for a sustained period, and in the end it just sort of peters out.  It revisits the Busby Berkeley films of the '30s, which provides some nostalgic sighs or amusement, but overall?  Not much to hail here.