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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Drive (2011) Review


Warning: This movie contains blank stares, stereotypes, mildly existent dialogue and a lot of filler music.

I was lookin' forward to it since it's finally on Instant Netlfix. I also heard that Albert Brooks got a Best Supporting Actor nod, in brief synopses I read. I also remembered seeing a TV spot telling me to buy it on Blu-Ray. "No, that's okay," I responded. Well I'm sad to report that it's just as polished as a TV spot, but also just as empty. Ryan Gosling plays a getaway driver and Hollywood stuntman who is somehow a badass that can kill anyone without making a facial expression.
Studio movies know their audience, I guess, because a lot of people ate this shit up. It seems the studios have come to the point where they figure all they have to do to make a protagonist relatable is have HIM be a moderately handsome white guy. Didn't work on me though. I was fighting the urge to fall asleep about half-way through and I can't remember the last time that happened. I literally screamed at the screen when Ryan Gosling stared inside a bathroom for like 15 straight seconds. This self-indulgent actor apparently removed all the dialogue from the script he didn't deem necessary and it ended up being most of the dialogue. This was a bad move. The rest of the characters are just as thin. Albert Brooks is an Italian mob guy who runs things out of a pizza joint. Seriously? And Ron Perlman is the fuck-spouting out-of-place Jew enforcer for Brooks. They make it very clear: He's Jewish and the "family" disrespects him by calling him a kike. Gosling disposes of Perlman's character while wearing his weird stuntman mask for no reason.
Carey Mulligan plays the single mother in distress who lives next door to Gosling's character. She's waiting for her husband to get released from prison and when he does, he wants her affections back. Did I mention he's Hispanic? Since he's a stereotype, he owes money to some tough guys from inside. He must not be relatable because of the Hispanic thing because he's killed off in a very expendable way. Christina Hendricks is also wasted in a bit-part with barely any dialogue; I'm looking at you Mr. Gosling. Things come down to Gosling against Brooks and in a terribly throwaway scene, mute-boy wins. Mulligan's character will never forget her stallion but I sure as hell will.
Rating: 1.5 out of 5. The music is really good and like I said, the film is frequently beautiful. However, Taxi Driver this is not.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Rabies (2010) Review


From what I've heard, this was Israel's first ever horror movie. Since it had a hot Israeli girl on the cover, I decided to rent it from Netflix. Now that I've seen it, it wasn't exactly a horror movie, but it's the closest they've come I suppose. And the chick really was a hottie, but more on her later.
The description mentions Rabies is not your familiar killer in the woods affair. It isn't and at times it's not clear what's really happening. Part of that is because it introduces a lot of characters that don't all have that much screen time, but their storylines are always there waiting. Relationships are also hinted at without ever being completely explained, which I liked. The tension builds up amazingly as characters progress toward their brutal demises. The stakes actually get higher and higher as things go along, becoming a little unbelievable at times, but never lacking in entertainment. The performances are solid, the cast is attractive and all the tension and raising of stakes causes the movie to never stop hitting you from left field. The movie's bizarre sense of humor that spikes in the most uncomfortable scenes is another one of its saving graces. I'd argue the odd comedy is actually what makes this movie memorable at the end of the day.
There's very little written on the low-budget film. I did some searching around the interwebs and came up pretty short on English-language coverage. Which lead me to the mistake of reading an article on the movie from The Jerusalem Post. I guess it's as pointless as arguing with your deaf, manic and half-blind grandfather, but I wish to combat some points.
1) They say it's unintentionally funny.
Me: No.
2) They don't like that the villain disappears halfway through the movie because it's not what horror movies are supposed to do.
Me: That's the point. And who is the real villain?
3) They say some characters need to be likable.
Me: Since when? And there are likable characters! I was always anticipating getting back to the scenes with the strong-willed Jewish lesbian that kept getting herself in deeper. And yes she was smokin' too.
4) They don't like that nobody gets rabies.
Me: Don't you have an article to write about how Iran is responsible for all the cancer in the world? And for rabies?
So it does meander around a lot, but what it meanders with is relatively enjoyable because there's a frightening surprise lurking around every corner. I love its depictions of cops as incompetent and demented. Nicely done.
3 out of 5.
Remember that smokin' hot girl mentioned? Ania Bukstein. She has been in several Israeli movies. I'm renting "The Secrets" next. Apparently she's kinda lezzy in that one too. What would I do without you Netflix?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The Most Overrated Horror Movies of the Aughts


This is basically a response to reading lists from Slant Magazine and other lists of Best Horror Films of the Aughts, or the 2000s, as you humans call it.

10) Audition
As The Pretenders would sing: Don't get me wrong! I like this movie, but it is without a doubt the weakest Takashi Miike film. I guess it received wide enough distribution that it became a word-of-mouth sensation. People who aren't usually horror fans were impressed with Miike's style of movie storytelling and what they thought was clever depravity. Real horror fans know that this is soft-core Miike just churning out another picture. The acting and visual style are what is uniformly skilled about this 2000 effort of his (which was actually made late in the 90s).

9) Dawn of the Dead
Trapped with zombies in a mall, except without the 70s charm, Romero-direction or Tom Savini effects. And Sarah Polley is almost shown nude, but not quite. Fail. There is a zombie giving birth to a zombie baby. It was surprisingly meh, like the whole movie. This remake came at the beginning of the decade's zombie overload. The genre's been done passed death. It's nothing but a walking dead shell of something we formerly loved. See what I did there?

8) May
I've come to like Lucky McKee, okay? But this one seemed much a-praise about nothing. There is a lack of female-centric horror and original, character-driven horror with skilled acting. BUT.... I never felt a real connection with May. Why would she need so hard to find a guy? And why exactly do people end up being so repelled by her? A unique chick with psychotic tendencies that turns on hot girls doesn't seem like someone who'd need to try so hard. She never stood up for herself at the right times either, which made her and the storyline frustrating. And when she snapped, she really snapped. No trace of the old May left. It was hard for me to swallow and left me feeling distant.

7) Inside
Nothing is scarier than improper scissor usage. Yikes, there's a lot of it here! The shock factor seemed to universally work for everybody. Not me. I'll try not to refer to it with spoilers, but the guy who turns out not to be dead was the last straw for me. It totally wasn't believable and looked like shit. The rest of it is just predictable, not scary and didn't pull me in with its "tension." Maybe I expected too much, but intelligence is what I usually like in my horror. Or at least style and unpredictability. Other movies of the new wave of French horror worked so much better for every reason. High Tension and Martyrs especially. That's how you make a messed up movie.

6) The Descent
I usually love stuck-in-one-place movies, but I never understood what was so special about this one that hit it big. The mainstream love that went toward this should've gone toward The Mist. The fanfare here really was ridiculous. The controversy about the different endings helped its publicity I guess. My main problems were I couldn't keep the generic female cast apart, there wasn't one that stood out, and it never surprised me. It was exactly what I expected from the previews.

5) Paranormal Activity
Great, great, great marketing campaign. All those that bought into the hype, just bought into the hype. The marketing campaign worked. Wide distribution and a low budget means I smell a franchise here, just like Saw. The problem is there's not as much story to stretch out in these. Unless the writers can come up with more one-liners for that Micah douche. Did they?

4)The Strangers
That one image tells you the entire movie. "Because you were home." Oooh what a punch! But not at all. And that's what it's all about. The actions and creepiness are never justified. Critics somehow felt that this broke new ground when in reality it just made it pointless and shitty. It comes up with a tired home invasion plot where nothing happens. No reasons are given for the characters being there and we don't get to know them. That's not a movie. That's not even half of a movie. It's truly one of the worst because it completely wastes Liv Tyler. For some good home invasion of the same era, check out The Dark Hours.

3) The Devil's Rejects
I credit this movie as the beginning of the era when hack filmmakers began trying to emulate either the 70s or 80s horror movies. No, this movie didn't do it and nobody can unless they take a time machine back to those days. Live in the now and enjoy our time, where movies like Session 9 are being made. It's just a string of murders alongside a string of fucks, with boring characterization. Roger Ebert even liked it, yet he hated these kind of movies when they were being made. At least Rob Zombie's House of 1000 Corpses was a little more fun.

2) The House of the Devil
Another example of a horror movie trying to be a throwback. This gets the details right, only I don't remember the 80s horror movies boring me to tears. I'd rank the scene where the main chick dances around with a Walkman for about 10 minutes to be one of the worst movie scenes in existence. I don't know why I didn't just turn it off. I guess I was waiting for the eventual twist. Big mistake because it sucked ass. Somehow director Ti West has tricked people into thinking he's some kind of auteur. Wake up. Even Eli Roth has more balls than this guy.

1) Shaun of the Dead
Another redundant zombie movie, but this one tries to be funny... for a while anyway. Then it's just gorey. Any everyday English man with a fat best friend gets to be the hero and I'm supposed to relate. Sorry, and I'm not laughing or appreciating whatever the hell I'm supposed to appreciate either. So no, I think I'll pass on calling it the greatest horror movie ever.