Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Quote of the Day: Twin Peaks: The Return - David Lynch (2017)

"Now back to starting position."

I am surprised that an arm wrestling scene could be so intense.

"Twin Peaks: The Return" part 13. It's the show that just keeps giving.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

My "Split" Decision - M. Night Shyamalan (2017) I am of Two Minds About This

I find myself facing a dilemma.

Earlier this year, M. Night Shyamalan released his latest film, "Split," which was received with both commercial success and critical acclaim.

I refused to watch it because I'm tired of people being entertained by DID and mental health in general. I find it debasing.

Now that the film continues to receive such intense praise, I kind of want to see it.

So, do I stick by my convictions and continue refusing to watch "Split?" Or do I give in to temptation and watch an admittedly offensive film?

I'm sure you'll find out soon which side I'm leaning towards.

Quote of the Day: "The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert" - Stephan Elliot (1994)

"Just what this country needs.
A cock.
In a frock.
On a rock."

Why I am Happy With the Casting of "It" - Andrés Muschietti (2017) Spoiler: Bill Skarsgård is Pennywise

When I heard they were making a new film adaptation of Stephen King's "It," I thought a lot about who they would get to play the part of Pennywise the Clown. Could they find anyone who could be as truly terrifying as Pennywise?

Now, that is a tall order. We are talking about concentrated evil, and a master of nightmares like no other. I am not just harping on the fact that he is a popular culture icon. I am speaking about my own personal fright.

When I read this book, I was about the same age as the children are in the story. That forced me relate to the story and the terror exceptionally well. I have not read it since, but it traumatizes me to this day. Like I said, Pennywise is a master of nightmares. I can not think of a better way of stating it.

When one asks what is your biggest fear? I chuckle and say spiders, just to shake off the subject entirely, but it is not true. The truthful answer is Pennywise.

I do not covet the producers of their task of casting Pennywise. Of course the filmmakers could look to the long and tired list of past horror films for the sadistic clown. But my question is: "Who has scared me lately?"

Who could terrorize me as efficiently as this satanic clown who has tormented me my whole life?

I have watched the 2013 TV series "Hemlock Grove" many times over. And every time, Roman Godfrey frightens me more and more.

Played by Bill Skarsgård, Roman wraps all of the horrific events around him to his own desires without empathy for anyone he hurts.

As he slithers through the series, he convinces a lot of people that he is an empathetic and altruistic soul.

He is the ultimate psychopath. He is the perfect hedonist.

This is why he is the immaculate choice to play Pennywise. Both characters are defined by their seduction. This is their weapon, their superpower. Pennywise baits and bribes his victims, letting them get close enough for him to devour them without much fight. They both take their personas directly from Satan, who created the concept of seduce and torment.

I may be eating my own words once we all see "It," but I really believe Bill Skarsgård will effectively paralyze the children in the movie, as well as those of us in the audience.

Also, I have to admit that if I were a teenage girl, Skarsgård would totally be my celebrity crush.

Message From the King - Fabrice du Welz (2017) Hope You Liked "The Limey."

When I started Belgian director Fabrice du Welz' "Message From the King," I could not help from being reminded of Steven Soderbergh's 1999 masterpiece, "The Limey" starring Terence Stamp. "The Limey" is a sort of art-house "Death Wish." It is a vengeance story fueled mostly by Stamp's stoic performance.

Jacob King's (Chadwick Boseman) entrance into Los Angeles is crude and abrupt.

He has come because his sister, Bianca, had left an alarming phone message and he flew in from Cape Flats in South Africa to make sure she was happy and healthy.

After beating his way to the truth about what happened to his sister, he finally goes to the morgue and finds her. Not only was she dead but she had been brutally tortured first.

Jacob goes straight into Charles Bronson mode. His ruthless cruelty does not seem to have any limit. Like Stamp's performance in "Limey," Boseman keeps his stoicism despite his savagery.

About halfway through the film, I was half-convinced that "Message From the King" maybe was a remake of "The Limey."

Jacob goes after lead after lead, obtaining most of their information cruelly. He starts with Bianca's neighbors and her drug dealer, Frankie (Tom Felton.) He orders each of them to give him what little information they have. His constant question: who do you work for? After all, their boss knows the whole story behind how, when and why his sister died.

The search brings Jacob to a charming but suspicious dentist, Wentworth (Luke Evans) upon whom he focuses his investigation.

Wentworth leads Jacob to big-shot film producer, Mike, (Alfred Molina) an unwitting accomplice. Wentworth had Bianca's murder orchestrated. Mike had just told him to 'take care of'' Bianca. And boy, did they. Why, we still don't know.

Now, Wentworth has figured out that Jacob is a threat. He gets two cops and gives them fifty-grand apiece to pick Jacob up and kill him. Fortunately for Jacob, these cops are no smarter than the rest of their ilk. He gets away, which is good because you can not just end a movie at the one-hour mark.

Now, it is time for a trip to the hardware store. It's a cliche, but it's a fun one. Jacob goes back to his hotel and he builds a bomb.

As it turns out, everything, the dentist, the cops and other thugs Jacob runs across all connect with Mike and his predilection for creepy-as-hell sex.

Bianca had seen something she should not have seen and she had in her possession a video she should not have had of her, her friends and Mike playing out his deviant fantasies. She was murdered simply because she had leverage on Mike.

Jacob confronts Mike at his home. He quickly kills him. Then Wentworth shows up, just ahead of all the lower-level thugs. All the rotten eggs in one basket.

All the pieces tie themselves together nicely and all there is left is to do is wonder what Jacob is going to do with that bomb. Gonna be fun.

I kept wondering why so few vengeance films are better than the barrage of others that follow the same formula.

Part of its success is, of course, a matter of how good the screenplay and direction is. Some people are talented and some are not. So many of these films just use the pretense as a starting point for their simplistic blood and violence. That is why most of these vengeance movies suck.

The other ingredient in the good vengeance movie recipe is love. "The Limey" worked because Stamp's character, Wilson, is not a violent man by nature and is motivated by a desperate love rather than sadism. Jacob is exactly the same. He is grieved by Bianca's death to the point where he goes against his gentle nature and explodes into a flash-bang of brutality.

Like "The Limey" and "Death Wish," "Message From the King" rises above most of the cheap pictures in the vengeance sub-genre.

Another Reason to Love "True Romance's" Michael Rapaport

Love this. We could start a movement called 'white dudes get no pussy.'

I have always love Michael Rapaport ever since "True Romance."

Monday, August 14, 2017

Quote of the Day: "Muppets Take Manhattan" - Frank Oz (1984) I want this song at my funeral.

"You hear that New York? The frog is staying!"

Undeniably the greatest of the Muppets movies. As wonderful as it was when I was 10.

The sequence helps me scrape up the determination I need to get through life.

Quote of the Day: Three Amigos - John Landis (1986) I say this to myself when I need encouragement.

"There you go, you can sew! If only we'd known this earlier."

This is the funniest damn line in the entire movie. This moment kicks "My Little Buttercup's" ass.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Filth - Jon S. Baird (2013) How the Hell Have I Never Even Heard of a Movie Based on an Irvine Welsh Book?

How the hell did I miss this? I mean, I spent much of 2013 in the hospital and I did not have time to notice films coming out at the time.

But how did nobody tell me about a new movie based on a book by Irvine Welsh?

The trailer reminds me of Abel Ferrara's 1992 masterpiece, "Bad Lieutenant."

I must see this film next. Forget the current movies, you'll have to pardon me for enough time to watch an older movie.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Monster Project Trailer 2017

This actually looks frightening. However, non-frightening, lame-ass movies like "Paranormal
Activity" and "The Blair Witch Project" have left me wary of the whole 'found footage' sub-genre. But I truly think I might dig this. (Hence my sharing it with you.")

Quote of the Day: Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1988)

Car Rental Agent - How may I help you?
Neal - You can start by wiping that fucking dumb-ass smile off your rosy, fucking cheeks! And you can give  me a fucking automobile: a fucking Datsun, a fucking Toyota, a fucking Mustang, a fucking Buick! Four fucking wheels and a seat!
Car Rental Agent - I really don't care for the way you're speaking to me.
Neal - And I really don't care for the way your company left me in the middle of fucking nowhere with fucking keys to a fucking car that isn't fucking there. And I really didn't care to fucking walk down a fucking highway and across a fucking runway to get back here to have you smile in my fucking face. I want a fucking car right fucking now."

The Autopsy of Jane Doe - André Øvredal (2016) Revenge of an objectified woman

Some genre pics are just that. Formulaic horror, action, sci-fi, romantic comedies, etc. give the fans of their genre what they want and to hell with everyone else.

So it is important to recognize a genre film when it breaks the boundaries and speaks to something important to a wider audience.

And "The Autopsy of Jane Doe" has something to say.

Normally, when you see an autopsy in a crime film or in a horror movie, the horror is diluted. There is a protective wall, shielding us from the real suffering that was endured. Not here. Director André Øvredal puts us through so much we can not simply pass these events we are watching off as just another horror film.

The victim is already dead, so there's nothing to prevent. And a mortician does not have to worry about the trickier aspects of murder. It is just how and when. Never why. "Jane Doe" has tunnel vision at first, highlighting only one aspect of a murder: the autopsy.

The first act focuses on the concept of morbid curiosity. The approach is aggressive, but it works.

The film opens with the police making a grizzly discovery. Several people were killed messy and one victim is half-buried in the basement. The cops need to find out what happened to her. It's critical to the investigation.

The head cop brings the body straight to the local mortician, Tommy (Brian Cox.)

Tommy and Austin (Emile Hirsch,) his son/protege, get straight to work.

Like I said, normally, a mortician's job is detached from the story of the crime. They do not have deduce anything. They just report on the science so others can come up to their own conclusions.

But here, bizarre and menacing signs start to manifest themselves. They are not explainable in Tommy and Austin's small, scientific world they spend their lives, in the basement of a funeral home.

But this time, if for no other reason but for survival, they have no choice but to play the role of detective.

This poor woman has suffered, that is clear. There are marks of torture everywhere on her body, on the inside. Burns, cuts and tattoos are all over her body, but there is not a single exterior wound.

Austin realizes something supernatural is happening, even though his scientifically grounded father refuses to look any further than their physical findings.

It is not long before we realize we are watching a possession picture, a widely appreciated sub-genre. "Jane Doe" poses the question: can a spirit possess a corpse?

When you read between the lines, this film is a rather poetic deconstruction of misogyny.

This poor woman is literally being used as an object. She represents dehumanization. To them, she is just a bell on a toe.

She was tormented in life and now, humiliated in death.

The only thing this film lacks is the sly humor from Øvredal's last film, "Trollhunter."

The end of "The Autopsy of Jane Doe" is hokey, cheesy and other synonyms for stupid, but that does not matter. That is not the point. What matters is that an innocent and terrified woman has been transformed into a force of nature and a force of vengeance.

That is how the film rides the genre fence. It is both a horror and an art house flick and God, it works. I felt both self-righteous and terrified.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Quote of the Day: Mulholland Drive (2001)

"I think you're going to enjoy your espresso this time. I've done quite a bit of research, knowing how hard you are to please. This one comes highly recommended."

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Family Movie Night - What Will It Be?

Okay, I've talked about this before. On Tuesdays, the theatre by where we live has discount movies. So, that's when our family goes. Usually, our choice is made for us. It has to be a film all three of us want to see. But sometimes, more than one film fits that bill. So help me. Which film should my family see this coming Tuesday?

Free Fire - Ben Wheatley (2017)

There is a story to be found in every moment in time. Chaotic or serene, it makes no difference. What may look like a flash-quick firefight can have its own narratives with their own tales.

When Chris, (Cillian Murphy) Stevo, (Sam Riley) Bernie, (Enzo Cilenti) Frank (Michael Smiley) and Justine (Brie Larson) meet up at the start of "Freeze Fire," there is so much testosterone and prick swinging that it is hard to tell which character is which, let alone size them up.

The five of them have come to the docks in late seventies Boston to buy some guns from a man called Ord (Armie Hammer.)

Ant there is more masculine banter. (If you have seen any heist movie since Quentin Tarantino's 1992 masterpiece "Reservoir Dogs," you know the kind of ball-beating I'm talking about.)

Ord is then joined by the rest of his crew: Vernon, (Sharlto Copley) Gordon, (Noah Taylor) Harry (Jack Reynor) and Martin (Babou Ceesay.)

Here's where things get sticky. As it turns out, Harry, from one crew, had jumped Stevo, from the other crew the night before. Now that is just a bit of bad luck.

And Stevo, he did have that beat-down coming.

That sparks the fuse.

Harry takes out of his gun and shoots Stevo. Now we really are off to the races.

What follows is an intense, precise and particular gun-battle. Everybody joins in and everybody is targeted.

Just when it looks like the fight could peter out, something neither of the gangs had counted on showing up: snipers.

Now, if the two crews would just cooperate, they could just take care of the snipers together. But Nooooo! They have to be buttholes, shooting each other and at the snipers at the same time.

"Free Fire" does have its down moments as well as the exciting ones. You have to quiet things down at least as long as it takes for Stevo to smack himself up and for Ord to smoke a little weed. Otherwise, it would just be rude. We are civilized!

Wheatley somehow manages to keep up the film's arduous pace. Each member of both crews is on their elbows and knees and shot at some point. He seems to have a talent for taking the fight and making it nice and visceral. We jump at every shot. We breathe alongside these people.

I invoked "Reservoir Dogs" earlier. "Free Fire" is not quite up to those standards, but it does have that same level of immediacy.

It is the intensity of a story inside one small moment and easily one of the best movies to come out this year.

I affectionately recommend this film.

Quote of the Day: The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

- "Life isn't generous. You mustn't love someone. You mustn't become attached to someone. Life begrudges you that. It takes everything away from you and it laughs in your face."

- "I am an ape and I am afraid."

You probably have not seen this film, but I think it is important that you do. This film is full of joy and sorrow and it is important. Not important to society, but to each of us personally.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Death Wish (2017) Will I or won't I?

When I first saw they were doing a remake of Michael Winner's 1974 triumph "Death Wish" starring bad-ass Charlie Bronson, I did not form an opinion right at first.

Then, I saw that one of my top five favorite actors, Bruce Willis, was picking up Bronson's torch, it peaked my interest. There was one mark in the 'good' column of the "Death Wish" quandary.

Then I saw that "Death Wish" is set place in the greatest city on earth: Chicago. So that is two marks in favor of the remake.

Now, I just saw that this is an Eli Roth (Hostel, The Green Inferno and Hostel) film. Three marks.

It's unanimous. Bruce Willis, gun, murder.

So now, I am left counting the weeks until I get to go see what I predict will likely be the second best action film of the year. It looks gleefully and wonderfully violent. Even if you can not tell that from the trailer, just look at Roth's past work.

Brimstone - Martin Koolhoven (2017) "Do you know why I'm here? I'm here to punish you."

As I watched "Brimstone," one phrase kept repeating in my head: "Jesus, the things we do to women."

I have seen this film marketed as a thriller, a mystery, a western and a drama. But make no mistake, "Brimstone" is a straight-up horror film. 

The villain in "Brimstone" is clearly identified at the start of the film. Liz (Dakota Fanning) Instantly recognizes his voice, even before we see his face. When she hears The Reverend (Guy Pearce) speak, she freezes up. All of the blood and hell vanishes from her face, leaving her an insane shade of white.

And we will discover, bit by bit, that The Reverend is just as menacing as any monster you've seen.

Normally, 'greasy' is a word that describes how something feels or looks, but The Reverend sounds greasy. You can hear the pomade gurgling through his throat.

When Liz, the midwife of the small town, is in the middle of delivering a baby, she faces a tragic choice: save either mother or the child . She can't save them both and she chooses the former. This horrifying opening sequence drains us emotionally and that is only at the twelve-minute mark.

It takes just moments until The Reverend starts to sow seeds of discord in the community he is settling into. Soon, people are calling Liz a child murderer and demanding she be burned at the stake. The Reverent has no empathy, no mercy, only wrath to bring down on Liz' head. And not even her husband can see how petrified she is.

The Reverend says he is after Liz to bring her to justice for a past murder.

Vengeance. Why does it always have to be vengeance?

She flees with her children to her father-in-law's home and the story switches over to Johanna (Emilia Jones,) a younger woman.

Johanna is a victim of circumstance. She passes out in the wilderness and is rescued by a foreign family. But this doesn't turn out to be a stroke of luck.

At the next town they encounter, just like those typical old-west places we've seen in too many movies to remember. The family stops at the first saloon/whorehouses they come across.

Before she knows it, Johanna has been sold and told that she is now officially a whore. And before she can even settle in, one of her sisters by circumstance is hanged.

As time passes, she settles into her new life, though it's clear she is not callous. She and her sisters are systematically abused and helpless to fight back.

Then, The Reverend shows up at the cat-house. Just like Liz, Johanna recognizes his voice instantly. And just like Liz, Johanna is paralyzed with fear.

Soon, we see the connection between these two and it's a shock. And we haven't even reached the halfway point yet.

The Reverend is malevolence personified. He creeps in and out of this woman's life, searching for something to cut.

There are opportunities for Johanna to escape. She falls in love with a man who tells her, "I seen your mother. She's the kind of person who turns the other cheek. Are you like her?" No, she is not. She fights and resists with every bit of her cunning and strength. 

The Reverend turns up to thwart every attempt to escape. 

What sets "Brimstone" apart from similar films is that it does not tell the story and then give us a twist at the end to shake us up. This film twists all the way through. We spend most of our time watching this either surprised or just plain confused. You get the feeling you have to keep looking over your shoulder.

The Reverend's sadism increases as we go from one section of the film to another. His capacity for cruelty has no limits. He terrorizes us right through the cruel and unforgiving climax. 

But you should know what you're in for. "Brimstone" is not a film to watch if you're looking for a suspense movie or a thriller.

This is one of the most difficult movies I have ever sat through. It's right up there with "Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer" with that visceral vomit taste at the bottom of your stomach.

It is an eye-opening look at the dangers of our world through a woman's eyes. 

So let's not argue anymore. Women have a harder time than men. That settles that.

At least, I know I will never be able to sing, "Abide With Me" again.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Quote of the Day: Dogville (2003)

Quote of the Day: "I am going to break two of your figurines first, and if you can demonstrate your knowledge of the Doctrine of Stoicism by holding back your tears, I'll stop."
- Patricia Clarkson as Vera in "Dogville" (2003)

Certain Women - Kelly Reichardt (2017)

Hey, who likes it when someone pretentiously opens a discussion about a movie with a trite and obvious first sentence? How about: "'Certain Women' is a film about the burdens of being a woman." (You like that?)

The film is an opportunity for director Kelly Reichardt (Wendy and Lucy, Meek's Cutoff) to show us men how our boorish behavior and negligence feels like from a women's points of view. "Certain Women" is about watching men making decisions for women and giving them the harsh choice to either cause a ruckus by defying them or just go with the flow when frankly, either option is exhausting. Women do not deserve to face this choice day in and day out. It is too much to put on one's shoulders. Over time, that weight is devastating.

"Women" is cut into three segments, following the stories of three different women. At the start of the first segment, we watch from Laura's (Laura Dern) point of view as she is dismissed and disrespected professionally because she is not a man. Aside from the small humiliations, being a woman also gives her numbers of reasons why she can not feel safe. (She carries this weight all by herself, too.)

And she takes it all from whiny, unimpressive and sniveling men.

Then there is a crisis and chivalry is chucked out the window entirely. When a dangerous situation presents itself, the "men" in charge badger Laura until she agrees to go into an office building where a madman has taken a security guard. She is not even a cop, but nevertheless, they put her in harms way before endangering anyone else.

Police, EMPs and even the hostage negotiator are happy to sit back and watch. I thought about whether or not the life of a woman is worth less than that of a man. A lot of men seem to feel that way. The rest are simply cowards. In either case, once again with the theme of 'unimpressive.'

The sequence is dream-like while this shameful and cowardly behavior is uncovered. They stand back and watch this civilian woman, Laura, walk inside into a hostage situation.

Once she walks into the room, the madman lets the security guard go and tells him to tell the cops that he would kill 'the woman' if they did anything they did not like.

Now, we see Laura as cannon fodder on top of everything else.

Then we shift to the second part of the film.

When we first meet Gina, (Michelle Williams) she is camping with her husband and their daughter.

They seem like a normal, happy family. But if you look carefully, there is a thoughtfulness, deliberate or not, in the way he treats his wife. He lets her carry the heavy tubs and stops her so he can dig inside to fetch some bungee cords. We can clearly see Gina struggling with the weight, but her husband either does not notice or care.

One of the worst things about chauvinism is that many men have no idea how the way we think and act feels like a natural instinct. Some of us don't consciously realize that we are prejudice.

And men are not the whole problem. Women can demean women, too. One takes it from her husband and passes that hostility onto their children. And on and on and on...

After spending some time with Gina and her family, we cut to the third part of the film.

A quiet, unassuming woman known only as 'The Rancher' (Lily Gladstone) does not seem to have any tangible connections with anybody.

She shows up at a community college and sits unofficially in some classes. She just wants to be around people.

That is where she meets Elizabeth (Kristen Stewart) who teaches law at the school. Elizabeth was tricked into taking this job, forcing her into a four-hour commute. She did not realize it until it was too late that this job is just a practical joke. Months of sleepless inconvenience for Elizabeth, some chuckles for the men in charge, playing a game called screwing around with the woman.

Elizabeth strikes up a rapport with The Rancher, though she barely says a word. At some point, somebody must have taught her the hard way to be seen and not heard.

You might think The Rancher does not have it too bad, the women who keeps her nose down and minds her own business. But we do not understand what hell life can be, passing through unnoticed.

Then The Rancher is floored as she learns that even the sparks of the beginning of a romance can be crushed, just as she gets bold enough to open up to somebody.

Reichardt cut "Certain Women herself." It is impressive how she does not cut the film quickly. She is willing to hold an unforgiving shot long enough for it to sink in, as cruel as that may be.

The endings of these women's stories are each cryptic as they are desperate.

Sometimes, women can grab the upper hand, but more often than not, they don't.

The goal of "Certain Women" is to force men to empathize with women. Not only the obvious, terrible misogyny, but the small things, too.

This film got to me, and I'm a cynical bastard, so I think fans of melodramas and indie films should go nuts over it.

You need patience to really enjoy "Women." If you will stay with this deliberately quiet film, it will pay off handsomely.