Despite my liking of director Kevin Smith as a pop-culture icon and as a director, my expectations of this low budget indie comedy were considerably dialled back following Smith’s own admission of the movie’s less than stellar reception from critics. However I was still willing to give it a chance and what I’d seen and heard still appealed.
Two convenience store clerks (a Kevin Smith regular theme) both named Colleen (Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith) hate their jobs, wish they were singers in a band (and sort of are with their drummer Adam Brody) and long for something else in life, other than practicing Yoga and staring at their phones. Then one night the store comes under attack from a race of miniature Nazis and the girls find themselves the only two people who can save the world from a Nazi uprising … in Canada at least.
This isn’t a movie you go and see for the plot, as it’s bizarre and stupid and really just an excuse for Smith to throw in a lot of Canadian satire of Mounties, hockey, beavers and people saying ‘sorry aboot that’ all the time. It’s mildly-amusing but also a bit of an oddity not helped by mostly poor, cartoonish acting. Smith’s daughter is watchable but lacking and the same can be said of Johnny Depp’s daughter, and well neither of them can sing but I’m guessing that was intentional. Also Johnny Depp himself has an extended, near-unrecognisable appearance that’s typically caricature for the actor these days and certainly one of his least memorable. Much of the entertainment here comes from the Canadian in-jokes so if you’re not familiar with any of that a great deal of this will go over your head. The combination of Canadian and Nazi imagery certainly proved curiously intriguing and well, the Bratzi’s are so ridiculous they’re actually fun … and the climax involving a big monster is a lot of fun too. Yet it remains a movie that feels stitched together from ideas that should have either been fleshed out or left alone entirely, because really – who comes up with this material and were they smoking something at the time? However, this wasn’t as awful as I was lead to believe but certainly wasn’t that great either. Smith can and has done a lot better. One for the curious or die-hard Smith fans only.
I’d heard some good things about this and so when it appeared on Netflix I jumped at the chance. A low-rent punk band nearing the end of their tour take up an offer to play at remote rural roundhouse, but soon discover it’s run by a gang of neo-Nazis. After witnessing a stabbing, the band find themselves battling for survival against a murderous group of thugs lead by Patrick Stewart.
A familiar but none-the-less intriguing concept, I found myself quickly on board for this. Yet once the shit hit the fan, some issues rear their head, like how the band jump to the conclusion that their lives are in danger after discovering a stabbed girl. Also, not one time do any of the band enquire what happened and proceed to provoke the thugs by calling the cops instead. Add to this a mumbling, rather underwhelming Patrick Stewart who really should have stolen the show here and this soon turned into something a little less compelling than expected. Thankfully there’s some very good stuff toward the end when events turn into a life and death battle of wits, and the late Anton Yeltchin (Star Trek) proves why he’s one young actor who will be sorely missed in the industry. A spunky Imogen Poots (Need For Speed) as a girlfriend to one of the thugs also proves a welcome surprise. Add to this some shocking violence that doesn’t cut away or go gentle and this at least delivers as a bloody horror-thriller even if its otherwise formulaic. The fact some of the plotting is needlessly convoluted (the reason the girl gets stabbed) is another reason this falls short of future genre classic status.
As it stands though for 90 minutes of tense, violent thrills … I guess this still did it’s job, even if similar plotted movies like Eden Lake or Frontiers did it better.
So what’s going to be my first new movie of 2017? Er … yes a messed up little horror comedy that’s gained quite a lot of word of mouth. Sitting down to this I really had very little idea of what I was in for … and having sat through it, I’m still not entirely sure what I just witnessed.
A father and son run a dodgy disco-themed tourist walk in their local Los Angeles neighbourhood. One day a woman (Elizabeth De Razzo) attracts the attention of the dim-witted son (Sky Eloba) who asks her out, much to the jealousy of his weird, possessive father (Michael St Michaels). So sets forth a bizarre love triangle that takes place whilst a freaky strangler stalks victims at night whilst covered head to toe in grease. Yeah, this is not your average movie.
Director Jim Hosking has certainly created a next level weird-fest here and delivers a fairly stylish looking movie on the whole. With several weird performances, even weirder characters and situations, this is the sort of movie you either watch and get something out of in a ‘what is this shit’ kind of way or you turn it off after a few minutes. There really is no other way of approaching it. It has a bonkers soundtrack that doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard (complete with chipmunks-like speeded up voices and an ominous pounding jazz theme tune) and an atmosphere of a hallucinogenic acid trip nightmare. It’s a hard film to categorize but think Troma or grindhouse and you’ll have an idea what this is going for. So what you get is plenty of gratuitous nudity (not a good thing, unless old man penis is your thing) and plenty of sick ideas and a smattering of gore. Yet it never really lets loose, and well, for such a premise should have really been a lot sicker and a lot gorier to leave any sort of impact on this viewer.
As it stands this was an occasionally comical and entirely unique experience that whilst not really doing anything all that memorable … I’m still happy to say I’ve seen.
I wasn’t the biggest fan of visionary director Nicolas Winding Refn’s last movie, Only God Forgives … a movie whilst stylistically impressive didn’t draw me in at all. However I do consider the acclaimed Drive a bit of a cult classic. So on a film-lover’s basis I’ll always give this guy a day in court. This latest effort is sort of an amalgamation of influences but I suppose most closely resembles Black Swan, swapping the ballet scene for fashion. Elle Fanning plays a young model newly arrived in Los Angeles and hoping to get discovered. There she befriends makeup artist Ruby (Jena Malone) and gets a gig working for agency executive Christina Hendricks. However as her angelic natural beauty starts to catch the eye of several high profile photographers and designers, she attracts the jealously of fellow models.
This is a striking looking movie. Refn’s eye for beautiful / macabre imagery is perfectly suited to the subject and we get a very artistic, at times freaky but always interesting ‘experience’ that clearly borrows from the likes of David Lynch, Stanley Kubrick and to a heavy extent Dario Argento … with clear nods to Suspiria. Add to this an equally effective soundtrack with plenty of industrial-electronic beats enhancing the images. The plot which is fairly simple goes to some very dark, surprising places and has a stand out turn from Fanning who continues to be an actress to watch. One of my growing faves, Jena Malone is also very good (will she live down ‘that’ scene?). We also get an appearance from Keanu Reeves as a creepy hotel manager. A Winding Refn movie is not for everyone I’ll add … he goes to some pretty shocking extremes here and it all gets rather messed up towards the end, as his movies usually do – but here the twist is a little bonkers and left me feeling a bit pushed out of the experience, almost like Refn was trying to shock for sake of shock rather than concluding on something all that effective or convincing.
However as a bold observation of a very superficial industry where youth and beauty are used and thrown away easily – I still found this both disturbing and intriguing … but not quite the sum of its exceptional looking ‘parts’.
For me director John Carpenter has been one of the greatest genre film makers probably since Roger Corman, and through the late seventies to late eighties had a streak of classic movie after classic movie. Who can argue with his pedigree when he’s made such entries as Halloween, The Thing and Big Trouble In Little China? The fact he also composes all the music for his movies as well just shows a dedication to his craft.
This 1983 effort may not get the same kind of love as the aforementioned titles but still has a status as once again another decent, if rather low-rent adaptation of a Stephen King novel. The quirky tale of a high school nerd, Arnie (Keith Gordon) who stumbles upon a 1957 Plymouth Fury in an old man’s back yard and decides to buy it and restore it to it’s former glory. Said shiny red car named Christine, of course soon changes Arnie’s persona from the nerdy victim to a somewhat cooler kid about town, attracting not only the hot girl in school but also the attention of a group of bullies. The only thing is, Christine has a bit of a mind of her own and quickly get’s protective of Arnie and jealous of anyone who tries to take him away.
Of course it’s a bit dated and the acting is passable at best, and well, everyone (especially the bullies) looks way too old to be in high school. That being said as a master of the genre, Carpenter still fills the movie with assured direction, solid atmosphere and some effective moments (the attack on the gas station, the final showdown). The mixture of Carpenter’s own synth soundtrack and 50’s rock ‘n’ roll songs also works a treat. I’d have liked it to have got a bit more violent as the kills are tame as hell … even for the time this was made. The plot also jumps from one thing to another with this viewer not really getting that invested in Arnie’s descent into madness, and well Harry Dean Stanton’s detective just seems to wonder into the movie like he’s walked onto the wrong set. But for an old-school horror, this was fun, inoffensive stuff and I’m glad I’ve finally seen it.
The Blu-ray from Indicator comes with a detailed booklet that covers not only the movie but also the director’s influences throughout his career. What looks to be a new documentary is also on the disk, split over several parts with interviews with John Carpenter as well as several cast members, as is an audio commentary from Carpenter and lead actor Keith Gordon. Add to this a handful of deleted scenes, a photo gallery and an isolated score. The image quality whilst not amazing pops with Christine’s bright red paint work and overall is very pleasing. We also get the soundtrack in a choice of the original 2.0 or a more than welcome 5.1 even if surrounds aren’t really used. Top notch treatment then for a worthwhile, but not exactly essential entry in both Stephen King movie adaptations and Carpenter’s filmography.