Ah the Squid and the Whale, darling of the coming of age family comedy drama circuit. Probably. People seem to like this movie. I am not sure I liked it as much as other people did. It follows a family through a turbulent break up, the children (two boys) find their loyalties split between their very nice, caring, successful mother, and their absolute shit of a father. Really, I can’t see why this is a good storyline. I mean, how much of a shit this guy is, it’s out of this world. He does some things which are just everyday kinds of shit, like he is a crap cook, doesn’t care about the family cat and is a bit of a sleezeball. But then he does some other higher level stuff like being arrogant, pretentious, and unfeeling, the trifecta of doom when twinned with a lack of success, jealousy and cheapness. I mean, this is where the comedy comes from, but I couldn’t get my head around the fact that the film treats the mother, and the son who sides with her in the split-down-the-middle family divide, with the same sense of ambivalence as the shit father and the shit son. It is almost like we are supposed to think that the dysfunction is everyone’s fault, that it’s normal and that everyone can get through it if they just love each other. They can’t, everyone’s lives would be better if the father went and lived in a cave. The film has one stand out performance though from Owen Kline as Frank, the youngest son, whose problems manifest the most obviously, but the most charmingly. If you want to watch a family very quietly and systematically torn apart by one man, this is the movie for you. Did I mention the dad is a squid and the mother is a whale?
I just watched the trailer for the new Jurassic Park movie. It looks amazing. In unrelated news last night I watched a movie called Zombie Honeymoon. With a name like that I was expecting big things, but it really was a bit of a letdown. I suppose it was a sort of plodding treatise on love and commitment, lots of really overly long shots of people doing what one assumes to be thinking, but really they mostly looked like they were in really bad adverts for perfume or levis or something, and not really very many zombies at all. The storyline is not dissimilar to that of Warm Bodies, but not nearly as charming. Here a zombified guy asks his girl to stick with him as he becomes increasingly gross and violent and she, on the whole, is pretty alright about it all. Herein lays the issue though, there are precisely two zombies in this film. For someone sitting down expecting about a million zombies to attack some idiots on their honeymoon, this really is a load of balls. One gets the sense that the film makers really like zombie movies, but didn’t want to go all out cheesy and good fun. In their wisdom they have introduced so much ‘trying to be pretentious’ balls that it is really not much fun at all, nor, because the being pretentious doesn’t really come off, is it that interesting. I can’t work out if it is supposed to be some sort of complicated allegory for domestic violence or something, or maybe a testament to love, or if the five minute long hallucinogenic scene towards the end really was an oblique reference to 2001. Who knows, who cares really, I am still grumpy with it for tricking me into thinking there would be millions of zombies – in wedding dresses and tuxedos.
Yeah Batman movies. Omnomnom. There is something strange about Batman movies, I can’t seem to review them objectively. Someone could just label up an actual turd with a badass Batman logo and I would probably still think it was pretty cool. I wouldn’t touch it or anything; I would just say ‘hey, did you see that Batman turd? Pretty cool right?’ Anyway, all reviews of Batman on this site should be understood within that slight brain deficiency I have developed, objectivity is no longer on the table when it comes to Batman. So, Batman Year One. A brief synopsis. We follow a young Batman through his first year at school, seeing how he deals with being a social outcast, developing his love of winged creatures, and drinking so much Jack Daniels mixed with gravel that his voice breaks at age four. It is not long before he gets into trouble after a play fight with a young, un-genetically modified Bane and gets expelled. His understanding and very rich parents try to console him with a trip to the theatre, after which they both get shot, right in the bloody face. Batman is right depressed after this and goes relatively emo, not Spiderman emo, but sort of mopes around a lot in his mansion. Luckily he decides to start fighting crime, presumably because his parents got shot in the face, but also maybe because he doesn’t have much else to do, and his lack of education precludes him getting a job like a normal person. He has a moment where he starts talking to his dead father. Obviously he doesn’t reply, he got all shot up in the face and is dead, but just at this moment a bat shows up and goes nuts. Batman takes this as a sign he must dress up like a bat and go on a vigilante rampage. This is much better bat-motivation (Batmotivation) than the silly being a scared idiot like he is in the Nolan movies. All the while Gordon is fannying around being the only not corrupt cop in town. How much of this synopsis you choose to believe is entirely up to you. Needless to say this is really one of the better repetitions of Batman before he starts having to deal with actual super criminals like the joker and two face, here he is just trying to clean up the town in his own, unique, deranged way. Batman rules.
Coulrophobia, the fear of clowns, it’s something apparently absolutely no one in the small town of … well … I can’t actually remember where the small town is, it’s not important; what is important is that no one living there has coulrophobia. If they did, they might react differently when creepy ass looking clowns turn up. Even before they start killing people, if creepy ass clowns turn up in my town I am getting in my car and leaving, possibly hitting a few as I go, or at least trying to. I would definitely not just be like ‘oh cool, a clown, I’ll just hang around here watching its clown antics till it kills the crap out of me’. If you really need a plot synopsis it reads as follows: Clowns come from outer space. They kill people. There are a couple of other things going on, like a halfhearted romance but really this is all about seeing clowns kill people in all manner of amusing ways. It’s about the least scary thing you’ll ever see, even if you are scared of clowns, but that isn’t really the point I suppose. There is a brilliant performance here by a guy who I think looks a tiny bit like Liam Neeson – except he just says badass things and doesn’t actually back them up with badassery – he’s the local cop who simply can’t believe all this clown nonsense, and has brilliant lines like ‘I made it through Korea I can make it through this bullshit!’ – what a hero. It all looks pretty good though, considering it was made over a hundred years ago in 1988, and probably had a budget of about seven dollars, the clown weaponry is suitably … clown-ey for sure. If you delve into the world of film academia you’ll find no end of readings of horror films that view the bad guys as somehow representing some important social issue, usually communism or something, but, I mean, if you are renting a movie called Killer Klowns from outer space, I am pretty sure this is exactly the film you would be expecting.
Cormac McCarthy’s treatise on loneliness, isolation, sexual deviancy and murder is hardly traditional movie adaptation fodder, its up there with one of the least joyful books I have read. This doesn’t detract from its power, and it is a thought provoking piece, so it was with interest, some trepidation, and the absolute understanding that it probably wasn’t going to be a bag of laughs that I sat down to watch James Francos attempt to commit it to film. There is a real sense of commitment to the material here; there is no shying away from the obviously challenging source material. To maintain this integrity is something to be admired. Scott Haze as Lester Ballard is absolutely convincing, achieving empathy for the character was always going to be problematic, but there are moments here, before his complete descent into deprivation, that one could almost like him. His performance is outstanding. The real problem lies in the way in which the original book worked because of its fluidity and ambiguity, none of which really translates effectively here. It feels more like the fable of a man outcast by society and his response, whereas McCarthy never really articulated it in such a down the line, cause and effect, fashion. Equally troubling is the depiction of Ballard as outwardly mentally ill, so much of the nuance of his internal monologue is lost in the process of having him have to vocalise his thoughts. Finally the ending is different from the novel. Clearly no one makes adaptations simply to have them compared to the original, but the change here is dramatic enough that any literature student who watches the film as a short cut will undoubtedly fail any exam asking what they believe the fundamental consequences of the ending are. It is an interesting film, and undoubtedly a well made attempt to tackle difficult material, but in the end it doesn’t get you thinking in the same way the novel does.
I became entirely sure the vaguely Hitchcockian nuance of The Two Faces of January was intentional about half way through, when the music underscoring a love scene becomes distinctly over zealous and orchestral in tone. It owes other things to the master of suspense as well, there are mcguffins aplenty, a simple story layered with sensational complexity and a look that makes the most of its romantic, fallen grandiose settings. Where it departs from the Hitchcock vein though is in its characterizations, there is real depth here backed up with a sort of realism the Hitch frequently put aside in the name of an exciting story. Indeed, it is personal drama on a grand scale, the small cast of characters lives entwining at the behest of a series of events both within, and beyond their control. Subtlety is king though, and this is what really sets the film apart. What makes it feel so much more like its straight out of the classics file is the way in which a look, a drink choice, a misplaced word can change everything, or nothing. It’s just like a Hitchcock movie, and that’s not a bad thing at all.
Four Brothers is the most ridiculous film that is not ostensibly ridiculous I have seen in a long while. What do I mean by ‘ostensibly ridiculous’. Well any film starring aging action heroes, the Staith, Dwayne Escape from Witch Mountain Johnson, and generally taking place in a prison, army base, oil field, all of the above. Four Brothers is set in Detroit, which, whilst you wouldn’t realize by watching the film, is a real place, where real people live. What four Brothers does is replace those real people with insane criminals. Every single character, aside from a cop who hates bent cops, who isn’t even a main character, is criminally insane. Or a murderer. Actually, they are all both. Never before has any film made me not want to go to Detroit quite so much. I just had to keep telling myself that there was absolutely no way this many people can get murdered in one day in the real Detroit. Having checked the crime statistics, there is certainly an issue, but they get through a years’ worth of homicides in a morning in this movie. It’s all some family mystery squad crime solving vigilante thing/death squad. The story is pretty irrelevant, and silly – but then so is everything else in this film. Watch if you want to see guys say things like “jackhammer” before machine gunning a hole in a wall, a man threatening a whole basketball auditorium with a gun and getting away with it, and a car chase in the snow ending in an execution.
As the last vestiges of Halloween, particularly so many lovingly and not so lovingly carved pumpkins are consigned forever to the trash, it is time perhaps to attempt one final dance with the devil, before we all go holier than thou for the Christmas season. An exorcism movie is just what we need. All that frantic prayer chanting, throwing around holy water, pushing crosses onto foreheads, and best of all – possessed people saying batshit crazy stuff. Exorcism films are all the same, but this is what makes them good fun. So it was with absolutely no trepidation at all that I sat down to watch The Rite – knowing exactly what was going to happen. The only half curveball is that the main character is actually an avowed atheist, you’ll have to watch to see how this is shoehorned into the plot, as opposed to the rather God fearing, but perhaps not so Devil fearing Priests of other exorcism films. It has none of the dark bearing of those devil child movies from the 70’s and 80’s, but the special effects department has somewhat caught up with the needs of film makers in this department – the possessed faces change in entirely non cheesy pea puke ways which are just over the top enough to be exciting. Stealing the show though is Anthony Hopkins with a performance as a sort of exorcism mentor/possessed guy. Careening all over the place from understated line delivery, genuinely emotional responses to all out scenery chewing madness he gets away with it all because no one really can say what a possessed person should be doing. His demonic babblings are nothing compared to Regans, but they are still rather good fun. The ending is far too satisfying to actually be anything of the sort, there is none of the blunt sacrifice of the Exorcist. Even so the fact that there is nothing original here does not make this a bad film, just go in with expectations, then have them all confirmed.
This is actually the second time I have written about Prometheus on efihr.com, if you check out the first attempt you’ll see that it was slightly more enjoyable the second time around. Prometheus begins with a huge blue dude drinking a shot of toxic Sambuca and disintegrating into a waterfall as a giant oval space craft maneuvers overhead. Quite why the giant blue dude does this is anyone’s guess, but the subsequent close ups of DNA type stuff, multiplying in the water makes one thing extremely clear, the blue dudes shot antics have led to some sort of life. Prometheus is full of moments like this, on the surface entirely nonsensical, but ultimately making some sort of sense. The thing is, the strands that knit these moments together are not strong enough to make something like a coherent whole. There is the giant blue dude storyline, the aliens storyline, the cyborg storyline, then there is a whole bunch of things which I guess might serve some sort of purpose for character development, but that actually don’t mean much at all. The things people (and cyborgs, and alien dudes) do in Prometheus quite regularly make no sense. I think the aim might be to make the watcher go ‘well why did they do that?’ then think really deep meaningful thoughts about life, the universe, faith and our place in this big scary world, because, you know, that’s what this is all about, but really it just feels like everyone is doing silly things for no reason. The coolest character is a cyborg, one assumes, given Scotts obsession with cyborgs that this has some sort of link with Blade Runner, and indeed the whole ‘being human’ theme is well explored here – but the coolness really stems from the cyborg being the only character whose actions actually sort of make sense, plus he is pretty sassy with his non human-ness on top. It’s a worthy Alien predecessor if just for its good looks, but in trying to answer too many of lifes deepest questions at once Scott has rather taken all the fun out of it.
I had completely forgotten about Escape Plan – which obviously would have been called Prison Break, had some inconsequential TV not already taken that name. When everyone in my world was going particularly crazy for The Expendables there was this little part of my brain that was repeatedly saying ‘But Stallone and Arnie are doing Escape Plan, I can’t wait for that either’. Then I saw the Expendables and promptly forgot that the other film even existed. That is, until I saw them, just sitting there on my TV, Stallone…Arnie…back to back…How could I forget such a thing? It was like a little surprise for myself. So how is the film? It’s brilliant. Just unadulterated, silly, brilliance. Arnie and Stallone are on the same side, but don’t let this get in the way of a good punch up. Stallone does some wise cracks; Arnie does many many more wise cracks. There is an emotional moment. The best thing about it is Stallone is playing his favorite ‘looks like a thug but it super intelligent’ character – he has even written a white paper about prison security don’t you know. It’s just great. In my experience these guys, in these silly action movies are a little bit marmite. You either think they are brilliant, hilarious, great, amazing, or you think they are getting too old for it. If you fall into the latter category, ask yourself, would the explosions be any less explodey, would the wisecracks be any less funny … would the plot be any less stupid, if anyone but these guys were starring in the film? Never. You’ll never out wisecrack Stallone and Arnie.