I love Lars von Trier because he provokes. I don't like all of his films but all of them have involved a participation of emotions. I come away from them with strong feelings... I might have loved the film or I may have even hated it. A filmmaker that can provide this sort of assurance is one I get excited about. I usually have to watch his films at least twice before I can discuss them and that's why it's taken so long to review Antichrist. It is his darkest story to date. While they engage in a moment of passion, a couple's infant child falls to his death from a window. Using chapters the film takes us through the emotions with the characters. From grief, pain and despair we delve deep into the emotional distress of these people and it's a dark and depressing place. Explicit, disturbing and upsetting... Antichrist is not a film you enjoy but one you can experience. I think it's one of von Trier's best and most challenging. Its a psychological horror film and is promised to confront you with its themes and graphic imagery... but.... you most definitely have to be in the mood for something heavy. I am almost finished watching his classic 8 hour horror epic "Riget" so stay tuned for that review.
A Wes Anderson film is like the jellybean amongst the sour warheads. Every one of his movies is a sweet treat that stimulates the imagination and reveals the child in us. It's impossible to rank his work in terms of "best" and its even difficult to nail down a favourite and such a dilemma is a credit to his genius. Moonrise Kingdom is his latest movie that tells the story of two 12 year old outcasts who run away from home to pursue a love for one another. Their story takes place in 1965 on a small Island amongst a boy scout troupe. Anderson has encapsulated the sense of adventure that being a child of the 60s was all about and he skilfully keeps his own quirky sense of wonder and imagination. As usual the cast is brilliant and the cinematography is wonderful. I am drawn to family friendly movies that challenge children with themes and concepts and Moonrise Kingdom doesn't disappoint. Adolescent turmoils are embraced and the movie dares kids to embrace difficulties and overcome them. Oh and there's not enough movies about the Scouts in my opinion LOL. I love them and this one ranks right up there with "Follow Me, Boys" as one of the best (granted, there's not many).
It's no secret that I have a resistance to "lost footage" films and so these types of movies really need to compensate with a trade off. 'Penance' is set in an abandoned mental hospital where a deranged religious fanatic poses as a military-like surgeon determine to cleanse strippers of their sins. The story focuses on a mother who desperately needs money for her daughter's medical bills and accepts a one-off offer to strip for $3000. Naturally she winds up in the hands of this maniac and his demented staff. I really liked the story and think it would have been even more effective if told in a traditional way. The hand-held style was distracting from what was an otherwise well made and insane premise. The performances are good, particularly Graham McTavish (The Hobbit trilogy) in the role of the religious psycho and the script is well written. Michael Rooker appears in a strange hoodlum role and Tony Todd appears in a randomly fleeting cameo as a chauffeur. I guess each of them contribute a legacy that provides an added appeal factor but they're both unnecessary... McTavish carries the film enough to make up for names like theirs. I went into Penance prepared for something mediocre but I came away surprised to have enjoyed it as much as I did. I will no doubt sit through it again sometime soon.
10 years ago I saw Lucky McKee's film 'May' for the first time and it blew me away. I vividly remember the euphoria washing over me when it ended. I had seen a horror film so original and smart that I wasn't sure I would ever see anything of its kind again... well... I just have! 'Excision' is a mind blowing horror film that reaches the same level of originality and downright awesomeness that May did a decade ago. Like May, the story revolves around an anti-social young woman and her complete withdrawal from reality. Pauline is an 18 year old with a deeply disturbed relationship with the world around her. Her mother is strict and controlling, her sister is dying from cystic fibrosis and her father is caught under his wife's thumb. During her sleep Pauling dreams of death... she becomes one with it and finds comfort, excitement and passion within all it's complexities... its her go-to place and reprieve from life . The film is so well made and it's incredible to think that it's director Richard Bates Jr's first film. Wow, I can't wait to see this guy's career take shape. He's put together a really impressive cast with some really surprising performances from the likes of Traci Lords, John Waters and Ariel Winter. Also good are Malcolm McDowell and Roger Bart but its Annalynne McCord's performance as Pauline that steals the show. If I were to actually give films a star rating, Excision nails it. 5 out of 5. Incredible stuff. See it.
A good splatter movie doesn't bother with a decent storyline and it inundates you with really unlikable characters. 'Sweatshop' is a doosie!! Its about a group of tossers who sneak into an abandoned warehouse to set up a rave. Unbeknownst to them, there's a sadistic butcher locked in with them and he's hellbent on maiming as many people as possible. And so the movie moves from one kill to the next. As viewers we don't give two shits about any of these characters and in fact we hate them... and so we find ourselves anxiously awaiting each kill. People are hacked up in all manner of creative and barbaric ways. The violence is deliciously repulsive and Sweatshop offers up the goods, ten fold. The killer is credited as "The Beast" and he's a huge bulky character wearing a welding mask and he carries an oversized sledge hammer. He's a cool villain and I'd be very happy to watch him work in a sequel. As far as the gore factor goes, think Hostel and Saw but far splattier. Heads pop, intestines spew and flesh shreds. Regular horror fans are likely to criticise this movie but avid genre fans will lap up every last drop of blood. We couldn't give a shit about story and want carnage. I really liked this one.
Jack Ketchum is an American author who's novels delve into the dark side of the human condition. He explores themes that few others dare venture and the result is kind of prolific. Several of his books have been adapted into film including The Lost (reviewed recently) and The Girl Next Door (review in photos section). All of his work to date has been no-holds-barred and is guaranteed to shock and offend a lot of people. Offspring tells the story of a nomadic tribe of cannibals who prowl the north-east coast of America. One evening they break into a remote homestead and viciously eat its residents and kidnap 2 women and a baby. A retired cop who spent years trying to track them is called in to hunt them down and the film bounces between the tribe and the police. It's a brutal film and definitely not for the squeamish... as with many of Ketchum's stories, nothing is off limits and children are part of the depravity. You will see feral kids tearing flesh from faces and stripping meat off the bone. I do really like this film, however, I separate it from other Ketchum movies. Where his work is usually grounded in a stark reality, Offspring has a heightened reality that disconnected me from the story. The kids looked like characters from Mad Max 3 and you feel like the whole movie was a simple horror story with violence for violence sake. There is no deep underlying subtext or statement (that I conclude) which on it's own is great but with the Ketchum moniker, the expectation isn't met. Nevertheless it's a nasty, gut wrenching exercise in blood, gore & carnage.
The Woman is a sequel to Offspring (previously reviewed) and it carries on almost directly after the previous film. Pollyanna McIntosh reprises her role of 'The Woman' and we find her wounded and alone following the finale of Offspring. An abusive and dominating husband stumbles upon her while hunting and captures her. He constructs a holding pen for her in his basement and forces his wife & children to help civilise her. This is a hugely superior film to Offspring thanks to the masterful direction of Lucky McKee. He's a fantastic director who handles dark & twisted effortlessly. Unlike the previous movie, The Woman explores a whole range of themes from incest to women's liberation and domestic abuse. While the cannibal woman's capture and abuse is at the centre of this story, the film's attention is tightly focused on the family's own captivity by a violent and sadistic father. Its heavy stuff and as expected, the camera doesn't flinch from the violence nor is anything off limits. The violence depicted is depraved but absolutely necessary, unlike the previous film which showed an over abundance of gore just for the sake of it. From my own video store experience its strange that few people are aware that this is a sequel at all and where I watched them chronologically I'm curious to know how people perceived it having not seen Offspring? Without the woman's back story and lead-up to these events do people feel more sympathetically for her? I imagine it would be a totally different movie when seen on it's own. I also read recently that the first novel (Offseason) which takes place before Offspring is heading into production to act as a prequel and round off the trilogy. I'm looking forward to it and wonder which approach they will take with it? Will it be a straight forward horror like Osffspring or will it be a deeper psychological affair like The Woman? We'll see.
It's hard to believe that Scrooged is 25 years old. Its another fantastic unconventional Christmas movie for people who hate christmas movies. Retelling Dickon's classic "A Christmas Carol" director Richard Donner has brought to the story into 1980s America. Known as a decade of indulgence and corporate creed, Bill Murray plays the Scrooge character as an angry, jaded and ruthless TV executive. Forcing his staff to work overtime on Christmas eve he is visited by 3 ghosts who guide him on an excursion from past, present to future. Everything about the movie works and I find it funnier every time I watch it. Murray's facial expression are brilliant and he is given free rein to put his stamp all over the movie.
I'm a sucker for the "Friday" movies. Being Christmas time and all I indulged in "Friday After Next" recently. The original Friday was an urban-hood comedy masterpiece but the second movie (Next Friday) was a big let down comparatively speaking. It was a different film and while still highly amusing, a lot of the original charm and modesty was lost... whereas this third film takes things back a few notches and tells a simple story. Craig and Day-Day are robbed on Christmas Eve by a Santa bandit. Their rent money is gone and they have to make it up quick-sticks before being evicted. They become mall cops and spend this Friday stirring trouble, smoking dope and partay'ing till the sun rises. Its stupid and fun. The gags are great and John Witherspoon steals the show for a third time running. Ice Cube has confirmed that a 4th film is in the pipeline (Last Friday) with Chris Tucker a near certainty... just waiting on the studio to sign off on it. I hope they do. I love this stuff.
Once you've seen a handful of horror documentaries, you're practically seen them all. Like many that have come before it 'Nightmares In Red, White & Blue' examines the history of cinematic horror in America from the silent classics, to the b-movies of the 50s right up to the current trend of torture porn. The usual suspects are on hand to lend their thoughts and theories but if you're a genre fan, you've heard it all before. John Carpenter, Joe Dante, George Romero, Anthony Timpone and others give their recycled conclusions that, while absolutely true, are tiresome to those of us who already love horror. To perk things up there are additional contributors like Brian Yuzna, Roger Corman and Darren Lynn Bousman who bring some new insight into the importance of horror and their opinions are great. Mick Garris has a particularly intelligent and provoking point of view. As far as these type of docos go, this is one of the more informative but its something I would recommend to critics of horror rather than dedicated fans (we know this shit already). To the dissers and naysayers it might just be an enlightening education... that is, if they can handle the graphic and hardcore imagery.
Some mild spoilers. Nothing serious though.....
Peter Sellers died in 1980 and yet two more Pink Panther movies were made with his character being absent yet integral to the story. The audience felt cheated by this cheeky ploy by the studio to cash in on his name... The first 30 minutes of The Bourne Legacy feels like that. Matt Damon declined to return as Jason Bourne and so this film continues where 'Ultimatum' left off and his character is listed as missing. Jason Bourne has fallen off the grid and the threat of public exposure forces the US Secret Defence Department to shut down the entire Black Ops program. This of course means killing all "participants" including Aaron Cross played by Jeremy Renner. He narrowly avoids assassination and finds himself on the run with a geneticist (Rachel Weisz) who is the only person able to help him maintain his enhanced physicality without meds. I think this is a clever way to continue the series. Rather than starting over with a new character and storyline, they have kept Jason Bourne's disappearance relevant to the plot with a manhunt for him still in effect. The whole Black Ops debacle is spiralling out of control and it's fallout is spreading. This makes for an interesting structure and its conceived with total credibility. For a lengthy film it moves along at a furious pace and never relents. Much like the previous movies it involves a string of elaborate chase sequences (some overlong) that force the viewer to forget that the structure is basically the first film all over again. Edward Norton, Stacey Keach and Rachel Weisz are welcome newcomers joining an ever-growing list of return players such as David Strathairn, Scott Glen, Albert Finney and Joan Allen. I'm keen to see where they go with the inevitable 5th instalment... all signs point to a Damon/Renner double team.
I don't think there's much you can fault about The Sapphires. It delivers exactly what you expect and gives a little more. Based on a stage-musical, inspired by the real Sapphires it tells the story of 4 indigenous women from outback Australia who get discovered by a Irish talent scout (Chris O'Dowd) and find themselves whisked away to perform for the troops in Vietnam. Their story has been described as an Aussie "Dreamgirls" and the film's formula toes a familiar, yet reliable line. The 1960s era is captured really well and the Vietnam portion of the film is exceptionally effective. Every performance is rock solid with Deborah Mailman and Chris O'Dowd being the obvious stand-outs. Mailman who is 40 in real life looks incredible and you'd swear she was in her mid to late 20s. Although it pains me I do have to give kudos to Jessica Mauboy who offers another genuinely entertaining performance. She shines! I have no doubt that a lot of liberties were taken to tell their story but I couldn't care less because The Sapphires is a fun, upbeat and thoroughly entertaining film.
When the end credits of 'The Lost' began to roll the first thing that came to my mind was WOW! And then I thought to myself, how the hell did this film receive an Australian MA15+ rating? This is visually, viscerally and conceptually R rated beyond any question of doubt. It really does stagger the mind when a schlock film like Father's Day get banned altogether and yet The Lost is granted release for teenage audiences. Anyhow... this is an incredible film. Author Jack Ketchum is one prolific and deranged fucker! Film adaptations of his work include The Girl Next Door, The Offspring and The Woman... all disturbing and all provoking. The Lost tells the true story of Ray Pye, a 19 year old serial killer. It begins with, presumedly, his first two murders and continues 4 years later detailing his descent into madness culminating in a truly shocking and unforgettable climax. The film works on several levels. Aside from the obvious straight up thriller/horror aspect, the film goes deeper into psychological themes with some subtle suggestions of psychosis. There's also a well conceived police investigation angle which cleverly builds on the tension. The film was produced by Lucky McKee who is one of the best horror talents in film at the moment. His debut film MAY was also one of the best horror films of the last decade and he seems to have found a kinship with Ketchum's work. As well as this film he has personally directed The Woman and Red. McKee and Ketchum is a partnership that works well. The Lost will blow you away if you haven't already seen it.
I reckon that Trapped In Paradise is a bit of an underdog. It was poorly received and it sort of slipped into obscurity. Time has served it well and each year I watch it again with a greater appreciation. Nicholas Cage stars as a nice guy trying to live an honest life while trying to keep his two thieving brothers along the straight and narrow after they are freshly released from prison. The brothers are played by Jon Lovitz and Dana Carvey. The two of them lure Cage to a small town called Paradise where old fashion values are still a virtue and their bank is a quick no-brainer robbery waiting to happen. And so the trio rob the bank on Christmas Eve only to find themselves stranded in Paradise by a blizzard. Unable to escape the brothers find themselves taken in by the locals and constant acts of kindness begin to eat at their conscience. It's an understated movie that doesn't impose it's Christmas values upon the audience but rather warms to you slowly. Richard Jenkins co-stars as the FBI agent on the brothers' trail and he adds a nice Jenkinsey touch (I love the guy). As I said, each year this movie grows on me more and I'm beginning to really love it.
The tragedy about "A Christmas Story" is that it's relatively unknown in Australia. Where it has become a Christmas institute in North America, we missed the boat and it has never even been given a release down here. Forshame! Absurdly "A Christmas Carol 2" has just been newly released down here ... WTF? So anyway the original film is a beauty. Telling the story of 9 year old Ralphie and his family, it's narrated by an adult Ralphie about the Christmas when he really really wanted a BB Gun. Several years later The Wonder Years was inspired by this movie and if you're familiar with that show then you'll know what to expect. Its very funny and uber sweet with great performances and wonderful gags and a massive sense of nostalgia for simpler times. It was directed by Bob Clarke (legend... RIP) who had earlier made Black Christmas (one of the best horror Chrissy movies there is). He forged a career balancing adult films with family films (from Porky's to Baby Geniuses) etc.. he also continued Ralphie's story with the 1994 follow up, My Summer Story. If you haven't seen A Christmas Story then jump on the net and try to find it. Its worth importing. I watched it with the kids last night and our couch was full of belly laughs.