Saturday, August 28, 2010

Casey Affleck goes noir & psychopatic in Michael Winterbottom's 'Killer Inside Me'

The controversy arising from this film is not without merit. The Killer Inside Me, finely directed by Michael Winterbottom (24 Hour Party People, A Mighty Heart) has graphic scenes of violence against women, all done and justified by its main character Lou Ford- brilliantly played by Casey Affleck. Based on a popular 1952 Jim Thompson novel, the film is a dark nightmare through a psychopathic mind. Stanley Kubrick once said the novel was 'probably the most chilling and believable first person story of a criminally warped mind I have ever encountered', which is a lot coming from a legendary director known for his grizzly and dark pictures. The high lit scenes only reinforce the darkness that hides behind the light & make the picture all the more cruel and torturous.

There are two particular scenes that everybody is talking about. One involves Lou hitting a woman's face -Jessica Alba- so hard and so strong that he ends up drilling a hole in her cheek. Another involves punching his pregnant wife in the stomach, so hard that the water ends up breaking and the wife -played by Kate Hudson- falters to her death in the kitchen room floor. Because the story is told in a sympathetic way towards its main character, there is a kind of easiness that unfolds in the film's linear structure. Lou is a man that believes that everything he has done is justifiable and compulsively right.
The film is at times slow and dull but its overall power gives it a small, menacing grip as it reaches its violent finale. Casy Affleck -a more talented actor than brother Ben- gives one of the year's best performances and only raises his reputation as one of the most underrated and gifted actors around at the moment. I can name hundreds of more enjoyable and satisfying movies but I cannot name as many that have this much of a punch in the gut effect. If the film falls short of the books ambitions, its interest lies in the darkened room its main character likes to lock himself in. Affleck is scary good in this one and he does the source material proud. Too bad the problems in plotting and editing prevent it from going even higher and stronger.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Danny Boyle In Images

With the release of Danny Boyle's latest film -127 Hours- just a mere months away, here's a career retrospective via images and films that have defined his career. Boyle is no doubt a visual stylist & at his best -Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire- has a way to move us with the images he creates. At his worst -A Life Less Ordinary, The Beach- he still dares us to leap into his imaginative worlds where nothing is safe and everything appears to be deceiving. Is he overpraised? I say he's not. He just makes the best out of -very often- poorly written screenplays that should never take off but do because of his talent. Then again he -semi- fucked up The Beach, which was a great book but an underwhelming movie. Looking back at all these pictures again, I'm reminded of how much of a love/hate relationship I have with the guy. Boyle doesn't always tend to underline his films with much substance and instead resorts to building up visually amazing images that kind of try to hide the weakness of a plot or a screenplay. That happened with Slumdog Millionaire -and he succeeded quite well might I add.

This is slight Boyle and not at all mandatory viewing. As it is with all of his film Millions is visually stunning but has a kiddie storyline that never really takes off. Altough its leading boy is just a real charmer and I guess I kind of see what he was trying to do with this one. A failure in my books but not without its core group of fans.

Some would say A Life Less Ordinary is his worst film. I'm inclined to agree and disagree, considering there were a few things I liked about that said picture and that it was not as dreadful or bland as something like say Sunshine? which -don't get me wrong- has its fans but did not have me at hello. + this one has Cameron Diaz when she was actually still curvy and hot.

As close to a great zombie movie as we have had in the past 2 decades. 28 Days Later felt almost like a rebirth for Boyle after striking out with his last two efforts (A Life Less Ordinary & The Beach). It put Cillian murphy on the map and gave a kind of new twist to the Zombie genre- Boyle made zombies quicker and more alive than ever. My only complaint? a piss poor ending that gave in to Hollywood conventions and resorted to violence and bombs. Followed by a mediocre sequel, not directed by Boyle.

His best movie, bar none. Trainspotting is a relentless and unafraid assault in its frank depiction of low rent junkies. Yet I'm afraid that a film this rebellious and this gritty is never going to appear again in Boyle's CV. Then again I shouldn't complain, few filmmakers can actually claim to have a movie this good in their filmography. I just wish Boyle would resort to getting a great screenplay like this one and hit it out of the park like only he can. These days he's given in to the studios and produced some solid effort but there's nothing better than going low budget and using much more creative freedom.

Now if only he didn't fuck up the film above. Maybe he'd be getting some extra points & a bit of a better reputation. Then again, everybody has their own dud. Scorsese's New York, New York?

First things first. I was breathlessly entertained by Slumdog Millionaire, so much so that it ended up on my ten best list in 2008 (#5). However, one that loves this movie must also confess to giving in to its multiple plot holes and -at times- unrealistically Hollywood approach, which all culminates with a kind of fairy tale Bollywood style finale with vibrant song and dance. I dug it, but this isn't necessarily a film you should take too seriously.

You can check out the trailer for 127 Hours right HERE. It's a real doozy, even though they kind of push the whole Slumdog Millionaire image for quite a bit of time at its beginning, which is understandable considering there arent necesarilly any big names to market this film around and -NO- James Franco is not considered a big name, well maybe to the gay community.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Expendables, The Other Guys & Piranha 3D give new meaning to the word bad, but one is actually good

We've come a long way this summer, with nothing but disappointment after disappointment. There was a barrage of terrible sequels (Iron Man 2, Shrek 4 & Predators), not needed remakes (Robin Hood, A- Team & Karate Kid) & unfunny comedies (Grown Ups & Get Him To The Greek) that paved the way for what might just be the worst summer movie season I've ever experienced. Hell, the best (along with Inception) & most entertaining movie to come out of the Hollywood studio system was an animated film about toys (Toy Story 3). And what to make of Inception? with its multi layered plotting and complex storytelling, Nolan's film is flawed, low on character development & frustratingly complicated yet no movie aimed higher or had more creative guts.

You had to go through the Independent film circuit to truly find diamonds in the ruff. I'm thinking of Debra Granik's Winter's Bone & Lisa Cholodenko's The Kids Are Alright with Annette Benning & Julliane Moore stamping their names on top of the Best Actress Oscar race. With no more than 2 weeks left before the Fall Movie Season rolls out, a few films are coming out to top the horrible taste others have left in our mouths. The dogs are not gone and still rolling out to take hard earned money out of your pockets. One is a comedy, one is an action flick & the other is -err- a horror movie. All three fail -what a surprise- but one is so bad it ends up being good.

The Expendables (R) ★

Unlike others, I had some hopes this would turn out to be gritty entertainment. How naive and ambitious of me to think in such ways. The Expendables deserves its place on the long and unstoppable list of the worst Hollywood movies of the year. Let's start with the script which has every 1980s action flick cliche imaginable. The dialogue is so wooden that I wouldn't be surprised if a 5 year old action junkie helped out Sly Stallone in the creative process. It would have been much better if the film didn't take itself -and its plot involving mercenaries trying to kick ass in some Latin American country- so seriously and relied cheesy aesthetics (read Piranha 3d below). There is no shortage of actors. Jet Li, Sly Stallone, Jason Statham, Dolph Lundgren & Mickey Rourke. All are stranded in thin air by sloppy direction (by Stallone) & poor plotting. There are also useless cameos by Arnold Schwarznegger & Bruce Willis, who take their roles way too seriously & have around 2 minutes of screen time each.

Let us now forget about how The Expendables is expendable crass entertainment & focus on the real reason we were even here in the first place. We knew there would be no plot but we had expectations the action would live up the billed stars names & churn out something awesome. How far wrong were we? way off the mark. The action is well filmed and watchable but there's something missing in it, the same way there was something missing in a lot of this year's summer blockbusters; A beating heart & something worth fighting for. The Expendables seems to have none of that and instead resorts to the same old, same old + add a sequel begging ending and you got the perfect example of how a cash cow with no artistic integrity can come about. Nice try Sly but no Cigar. Next please.

The Other Guys (PG-13) ★½

Will Ferrell has already been talked about in this blog, so I'll be short and sweet talkin about his latest comic endeavour. It's a letdown. Sure there are some jokes that hit the target but we have the right to expect more from this supposed king of comedy. Here he teams up with Mark Whalberg, they play police partners trying to solve greedy scammers of Wall Street . Just like the Expendables, the plot is almost non existent (What's the deal Hollywood?) & the real attraction is its stars. Ferrell -coming off last year's stinker Land Of The Lost- tries his damn near best to entertain us and at times it succeeds but there's a sense of deja vu and been there done that lingers all around The Other Guys. At his best (Old School & Wedding Crashers) Ferrell pushes the envelope and rubs his laughs with rebellious darts but at his worst (Land Of The Lost & Semi Pro) he tends to try and hide a screenplay failure with a sense of rehashed jokes. The Other Guys falls in the middle of these two categories and does not nothing to advance an already successful career.

Piranha 3D (R) ★★★

This movie stinks so bad it's good. The absurdity and irrelevance it brings to the table is astounding & the acting is nothing short of terrible. Yet, I was entertained by its stupidity. How could I not be? Piranhas reeking havoc on the most annoying of college students, killing them in such creative and absurd ways, I sat there shocked with my jaw dropped wide open. Piranhas 3D has the chance of becoming a B-movie classic in the very same way The Rocky Horror Picture Show has evolved over the last 30 years. I'm quite shocked this movie only got an R rating, considering what happens during its 90 minute running time. There's full frontal nudity, lesbian action, creative fish eating kills, Blood everywhere, horribly bad acting, a dismembered penis, vaginas, tits, bad CGI special effects & a death count that can rival any gangster film times 100.

This isn't a film with suspense, it's a film with gross outs that takes pride in its cheap, gory thrills. Plot, acting and dialogue are replaced by horrific but goofy visuals that cannot help but shock the most primitive of viewers. Director Alejandre Aja has always relied on shock to make a point -he did These Hills Have Eyes & Haute Tension. This is the perfect vehicle for him, he doesn't have the flair, timing or patience to build his stories around character and instead resorts to graphic violence as a backup. There isn't an inch of smarts in Piranha 3D but what it lacks in brains it compensates with sheer horrid entertainment value. This isn't a film that its producers should be proud of but it is a film its audience can sink their teeth into. It's trash with class.

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