"Alps" is Brilliantly Bizarre and Surreal

"Alps"
12/20/2012

Greek director Giorgos Lanthimos's second feature film "Alps"  is just as thought provoking and bizarre as his Academy Award nominated debut "Dogtooth".  He paints a very surreal picture that can be hard to understand, but somehow is still very engaging.

"Alps" is the name of a clandestine group of four people who offer a service to impersonate the recently deceased in order to help their clients through the grieving process.  This group is comprised of a nurse, a rhythmic gymnast and her coach, and another man who is their leader.  They are called the "Alps" because it is ambiguous and doesn't say what they do, as well as being irreplaceable.  They meet in a gymnasium and don't go by their real names but are referred to by mountain peaks associated with the Alps.  The leader is Mount Blanc, the Nurse and the stories main character is called Mount Rose.

The film is mainly focused on Mount Rose, played by Aggrelikki Papoulia who also starred in "Dogtooth" as the Eldest daughter.  It is about the lost of identity and losing your connections to reality.  Mount Rose is a nurse who lives with her elderly father, but also seems to be a playing the part of his late wife.  She has several Alps clients and it is hard to find who the "real" Mount Rose is.  The Gymnast and coach are another thing altogether, she is always in training and never seems to be ready.  Mount Blanc is sort of a mystery.  He is the quiet and stoic leader of the group who during a game of who would you most like to impersonate chooses Bruce Lee.

When Mount Rose breaks one of the rules of being an Alp she is cast out, this is where she loses her proverbial shit and has a complete mental breakdown.  Like trying to describe the meaning of a Salvador Dali painting, both "Alps" and "Dogtooth" just need to be experienced and usually more than once.  Both movies are now available on Netflix watch Instantly.

"Turn Me On Dammit!" is Worth Getting Exited About

Turn Me On Dammit!
12/13/2012
 

When it comes to teen sex comedies it is usually from a guy or group of guys perspective.  Very rarely do you get a story that deals with the female side.  American films have trouble talking about female sexuality, especially in teenagers.  Our repressed society likes to keep things hidden from the so-called impressionable people that it is affecting, because it is just so uncomfortable.  Really?  The Norwegian film "Turn Me On Dammit!" is brilliant in its frankness and honesty without being exploitive or gratuitous.  This film is comprised of non professional actor and touches on themes and issues that are very universal when it comes to teenage life.

 

Alma is a 15 year old girl, who lives with her mother in a very small Norwegian town called Skoddeheimen.  Like many small towns all over the world it is incredibly boring and she can't wait to leave and start a real life.  It is so boring in fact that her mother works at a local turnip processing factory.  She is friends with Sara, a dark haired anti-establishment type girl who dreams of moving to Texas and abolishing capital punishment.  Sara's sister Ingrid has and addiction to lip gloss and doesn't really care for Alma, since they like the same guy.  The guy in question is Artur and he is the most popular kid in school.

 

We venture into Alma's mind and see her fantasies played out on screen, but then are jolted back to reality.  During a party at the community center everything changes when Alma and Artur are alone outside and her pokes her with his ding dong.  Alma goes back inside and blabs to her friends about what happen and they think she is making it up, then Artur denies the whole thing.  This makes Alma a perv and an outcast at school.  It doesn't take long for the news to get around town and to her mother.  Alma's mother also confronts her with a huge phone bill that has Alma calling phone sex lines.  The scene that opens the movie involves one of these calls and is very reminiscent of the opening of "American Pie" except from a female angle.  Alma is dealing with issues common to all teenagers no matter where you live.  So she runs off to Oslo and meets up with Sara's older sister and her friends where she is able to take everything into perspective and realizes that this will all pass and the day will come when she will become her own woman.  Filmmaker Jannike Systad Jacobson, in her debut film, brings a real heartfelt honest to the story and its characters.

 

This movie might be a little hard to find but is available through Netflix and Amazon and is definitely worth a look.

"Ghost World" is definetly Wowsville

Ghost World
11/28/2012
 
Before "Art School Confidential" Director Terry Zwigoff adapted another one of Daniel Clowes graphic novels, the satirical "Ghost World".  About longtime friends Enid and Rebecca as the graduate high school and try to decide what to make of their lives.

The story focuses more on Enid, played by Thora Birch, and her quest to find herself.  Her mother is no longer around and she lives with her very conservative and nerdish father.  They have an average relationship as he is oblivious to her problems and she just kind of puts up with him until she can move out.  All of the characters in "Ghost World" are a bit quirky to say the least, but they are very real and relatable.

Enid and Rebecca wander their small town spouting out various opinions and random thoughts.  They pass by Norman, the old guy who is always sitting on a buss bench waiting for a buss that never comes.  They visit the sidewinder convenience store to pester and torment their friend Josh (Brad Renfro, R.I.P.), then end up at a 50s diner called Wowsville.  While reading the "missed connections" section of the local paper and laughing at all the losers they decide to call one of the number and leave a message.  This brings us to another eccentric but down to earth character in Seymour, played perfectly by Steve Buscemi.  Seymour is a single middle aged "sad sack" kind of guy who says " He has difficulty relating to 90% of humanity" He has extensive knowledge and collection of old 78 records.  He is a guy who seems to have been born at few decades too late.

The Girls set up a blind date with Seymour just get a look at him and to observe him. Enid always carries around her sketch book and fills it with drawing of all the weird people she comes in contact with.  After they stand up Seymour at the cafe they unexpectedly run into him at a sort of garage sale/swap meet.  Enid find him fascinating and buys a record from him.  Enid and Seymour then develop this friendship based on old jazz musicians, and the fact that Enid wants to find him a girlfriend.  They are both lonely souls in a world of people they can't stand to be around.  Rebecca on the other hand is the more "normal" of the girls, she works at a coffee shop and is pretty put together.  She doesn't understand Enid's fascination with Seymour and they start to drift apart as friends.  They always dreamed of getting their own apartment together, but now that the time has come, they keep drifting further and further apart.

The ending is very hopeful but uncertain.  It remains true to life and doesn't give any easy answers.  Difficult Decisions have to made weather we like it or not.  Some would call it living your life.

"Art School Confidential" Majors in Funny

"Art School Confidential"
11/18/2012
 

One of the greatest questions ever asked by mankind is "What is Art?"  "Art School Confidential", directed Terry Zwigoff and based on the graphic novel by Daniel Clowes, takes a satirical look at the art world through the students at the fictitious Strathmore college.

 
Jerome (played by Max Mighella) is a freshman at Strathmore who has dreams of being one of the worlds greatest artists.  His roommates are a fanatical film director, and a yet to come out the closet fashion designer.  The movie plays up all of the typical art school stereotypes in a very self referential way.  Jerome forms a sort of friendship with Bardo (Joel David Moore) and he points out all of these clichéd students.  Bardo himself is the guy who has been there for seven years and changes his major each year.  There is also the crazy suicidal girl, the pseudo-intellectual guy, the hippies, the teachers pet.  Also the failed arrogant artist who decides to become a teacher in a desperate attempt to hold on to something that was never really there.  This is played by the always intense (and this time funny) John Malkovich as Professor Sandiford.  Art school is a also the magical place where there is always two super hot uninhibited girls for every geeky guy.

 

Jerome is a regular guy and falls for the lure of the "glamorous" artist life.  He decides to go to Strathmore because he wants to meet Audrey (Sophia Myles) the beautiful nude figure model from the college's brochure.  To further fill out the full roster of interesting characters we have Broadway Bob (Steve Buscemi) who once a year gives one of the students a one person show at his cafe.  Their is Jimmy the old alcoholic reclusive former artist who Bardo brings Jerome to for advice on life and art.  All in all this is a great ensemble cast with interesting characters that you wish you could know more about.  As Jimmy tells Jerome one night "to be a great artist you just need to take lessons in sucking cock and licking ass"  Well put Jimmy!

 

So Jerome eventually meets Audrey and after he paints her portrait in a class they become friends.  Audrey plays the part of the Muse to all of the popular up and coming young artists.  Everything they are doing in school builds up to the final showing and one and only grade.  So many things have been said about art over the centuries its impossible to nail down what makes good art.  Is it just a popularity contest?  Is it the artist themselves and not necessarily the art? And on and on.  Jerome really does have some talent but how will he turn it into a career?  As Professor Sandiford states in class "only about 1 in 100 of you will ever make a living as an artist"  I think he is being rather conservative.

 

The movie also has a side plot of a murder mystery involving the Strathmore Strangler which is a little more than strange, but it does involve a detective going under cover an becoming the most popular painter at the school.  Do you really need talent to be a great artist?  So many questions.  "Art School Confidential" is must see for anybody that asks these questions.  It doesn't offer any answers but its a pretty fun experience.

Stay the Night in "1408" with John Cusack

"1408"
11/11/2012

Master horror writer and cultural icon Stephen King has had over 30 stories adapted into movies or T.V. mini series.  "1408" is one of the more successful film adaptations in recent memory.   Starring John Cusack in a sort of one man performance as Mike Enslin.  Enslin is a struggling writer who has just completed his latest book on haunted hotels.  He is a non believer in ghosts and ghoulies and has lost his spiritual faith as well when his young daughter dies from a terminal illness.  He has turned into a cold and cynical man looking for something in life and just can't find it until he gets a post card from the Dolphin Hotel in New York City.

Mike is from New York but since the death of his daughter Katie, he has left his wife and moved to Hermosa Beach, California.  He receives all kinds of mail from across the country from supposed haunted hotels that want him to stay the night.  He is drawn back home to New York and the Dolphin Hotel as he seems destined to stay in room 1408.  Sam Jackson plays the hotels manager Mr. Olin, who warns Mike about the room and its history.  How 56 people who have stayed in 1408 have died, some of natural causes, several suicides, and many other questionable deaths.  "Nobody has lasted more than an hour in 1408" says Mr. Olin.  Mike is on a mission and no mater what he is told he will stay in 1408 and that is final.

Upon arrival Mike is thoroughly unimpressed.  The bland furnishings and clichéd art on the walls is thoroughly mocked as he talks into his trusty tape recorder.  He settles in with a free bottle of expensive booze and starts to pass the time when things start to get a little eerie.  Mike is not easily rattled but he starts to become unglued pretty quickly as things start to happen.  The radio turns on and ominously plays "We've only just begun" by The Carpenters.  Mike take a psychological ass kicking that propels the remainder of the movie.  Director Mikael Hafstrom has included a few homages to other great psychological horror films as he has the walls crack open like in Polanski's "Repulsion" and a snow covered scene that brings back images of Kubrick's "The Shining".  This movie doesn't approach that level of greatness but is still a good film non the less.  John Cusack acts alone in a room for most of the film and pulls off an amazing performance.  The movie boils down to a man who is having trouble dealing with the death of his daughter, even though in flashbacks Katie assures him "daddy, everyone dies".

"1408" is well made, well, acted and worth checking out so watch it tonight.

Rockport Rates: "Halloween"

 
 

1. Halloween (1978)

Johns Carpenter's original is one the best horror movies of all time.  Jamie Lee Curtis sets the standard for scream queens.  Michael Myers is at his creepy best!  We begin our long relationship with Donald Pleasance as Dr. Loomis.

 
2. Halloween II (1981)

A very impressive sequel that continues the events of the first. Jamie Lee is back to battle Michael. While the crazy Dr. Loomis follows close behind.




 
3. Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers (1988)

Introducing Danielle Harris as Jamie, Michael's niece who must die.  She gives an absolutely amazing performance for such young girl.  Dr. Loomis is still alive? This one also has one of the best endings in the whole franchise.

 
4. Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later (1998)

Jamie Lee Curtis returns with a great young cast.  A brief return to brilliance for the franchise after the disappointment number 6.

 
5. Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers (1989)

Jaime (Danielle Harris) is back and so is Michael.

 
6. Halloween (Rob Zombie Remake) (2007)

An ambitious remake from the right director, but still falls flat with weak character development (except for Michael) and the originals building of suspense and subtle terror.  There is nothing subtle in anything associated with Rob Zombie.

 
7. Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

The black sheep of the franchise.  Who needs Michael Myers, right?  Wrong.  I liked the performance of veteran horror actor Tom Atkins though.  "Eight more days 'til Halloween Silver Shamrock".  Ahh! can't get that tune out of my head.

 
8. Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers (1995)

A pregnant Teenage Jamie is kidnapped by some Druids who steal her baby so Michael can ceremoniously kill it, or something like that.  Has a very dated early 90's feel.  Grunge is so in dude!

 
9. Halloween II (Rob Zombie Sequel) (2009)

A complete mess from inception to somewhat completion.  The audience gets tortured by the filmmakers instead of Michael Myers.

 
10. Halloween Resurrection (2002)

Web Cams and Busta Ryhmes bring the franchise to rock bottom lows.
 
 

"The Amityville Horror" (2005) Welcome Home!

Amityville Horror (2005)
10/15/2012
 

"Houses don't kill people, people kill people".  The original 1979 movie starred James Brolin and Margot Kidder as a family that moves into a big beautiful house only to find it has a storied and brutal past.  The movie is based on a true story of the most famous haunted house in America.  The house itself is a very iconic image in the history of horror movies, almost like the mansion in "Psycho"  The movies both old and new are based on the book "The Amityville Horror" by Jay Anson.

 Ryan Reynolds and Melissa George take on the lead roles of George and Kathy Lutz, while their little girl Chelsea is played by up and coming superstar Chloe Grace Moretz ("Kick-Ass", "Let Me In").  Taking place in 1974, George is a building contractor who is looking for a new house for his new instant family.  Kathy is a widower with 3 kids so George must really find Kathy special.  All kidding aside they find a giant house at a bargain price and wonder what the catch is.  Well here it is, they are told a year earlier a family was brutally murdered after living there for 28 days.  Things start out great for the family as they usually do, but things don't stay that way for long.  George becomes more angry, more aggressive and begins to lose touch with reality.  Is it the house or is he just in a little over his head with what's going on in his life?  This movie also loads on the typical horror clichés.  It has a cold and creepy basement, freaky kids up to no good, old priests who have lost their faith and get attacked by flies, you know the usual.

Chelsea has a new imaginary friend in Jodie, who might not be all that imaginary (or alive for that matter)  Kathy also starts to see and hear things.  After witnessing the changes overcoming George she consults the local priest played by the great Phillip Baker Hall.  We get a little more back story on the house, but the priest role is pretty underused.  While in the house George feels physically ill and his mental state starts to quickly erode, until he finally loses it.  I know this isn't the greatest movie, but for a horror remake it does the job and doesn't crap all over the original.    Ryan Reynolds is known more for his comedic roles, but he is also a good dramatic actor (see "Buried"). 

There are countless sequels and other "Amityville" horror movies but the original and this remake are the ones to watch.

"Stigmata" Yeah its Really is That Bad!

Stigmata
10/8/2012

Usually I don't do reviews of bad movies but when I originally saw "Stigmata" on DVD in the late 90s I actually thought it was pretty good.  Now as I re-watch it over 10 years later I can definitely say, What the hell was I thinking?  It feels dated, overly stylized and just plain bad all around.

 

Taking place in the water logged city of Pittsburg, where it is constantly raining and dreary.  Patricia Arquette plays Frankie Paige a hair stylist who becomes afflicted with the stigmata, or the wounds of Christ, after receiving a rosary from her mother as a gift.  The rosary belonged to a recently deceased South American priest whose church recently had their statue of the Virgin Mary bleed.  Frankie is an atheist and the stigmata usually only appears to extremely devout Catholics.  The wounds of the stigmata cannot be transferred through physical items.  Its also has nothing to with demonic possession, actually quite the opposite.  We then meet Father Andrew Kiernan, a Vatican investigator of miracles.  He is sent to meet with Frankie and we learn that she is 23 years old, yeah sure you are and I am Abraham Lincoln.  They talk and she tries to seduce him, and he refuses for the most part.  Later on she seems to be possessed by some evil spirit and writes all over her apartment walls.  This is supposedly is a lost gospel of the Bible written by Jesus himself.  It tries to be scary and horrific but epically fails.

 
This train wreck was directed by Rufus Wainwright and like a lot of movies in the 90s it suffers from over stylization (AKA The Tarantino Effect).  Style over substance and style just for the sake of trying to be "cool".  It pays no attention to factual accuracy and just kind of creates it own thing on the fly.  The musical score sound like something out of the 80s and not in a good nostalgic way.  The entire look and feel of the film feels pretty dated and it wasn't even made that long ago.  This is definitely a view at your own risk movie. 

 

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is a Must See!

The Exorcism of Emily Rose
9/23/2012

 

This movie is based on the true story of Anneliese Michel who died during an exorcism performed in Germany in the late 1960s and the trial of the priest who was accused of her murder.  Some details have been changed for the movie but the heart of the story remains  Science takes on religion in a gripping court room throw down.

Starring Jennifer Carpenter, now of "Dexter" fame, as Emily Rose a smart and centered farm girl who goes off to college only to be either suffering from a number of medical conditions or possessed by demonic spirits.  This movie is stocked with a roster of very accomplished actors such as Tom Wilkinson as the accused Father Moore, Laura Linney as his attorney, and Campbell Scott as the prosecutor.  The story is centered on the trial of Father Moore and uses flashbacks to tell the story of Emily Rose and the circumstances surrounding her death.

 

The prosecution contends that Emily was suffering from something called psychotic epileptic disorder.  Which would explain her hallucinations, her trance like states, and violent seizures.  While Father Moore is a loving and caring priest with a perfect record did he willing put Emily at risk by ignoring her possible medical conditions and relying of faith alone?  Father Moore does tell Emily to stop taking her medications because it clouds the mind and prevents the exorcism from working. When Emily dies the official cause of death is dehydration and malnutrition.

Defense attorney Erin Bruner takes the case with the promise that she will be made a full partner at her firm.  She is coming off a huge win in which she got off a another murder suspect.  She meets up with Father Moore in prison an he refuses to take a plea deal, wanting it to go to trail to tell Emily's story (good thing or there wouldn't be a movie).  Erin lives alone and after taking the case strange things start to happen every night at 3 am, the witching hour, leaving her to start examining her faith. 

The story investigates both sides of the case and each do have very good arguments.   Science has been batting religion since the beginning of time and this movie doesn't give any easy answers.  The acting is top notch and takes the issues seriously.  It all depends on what you believe and goes to the core of faith itself.  It is one of the better movies out there on the subject of demonic possession.  It does have a lot of good scares and is loaded with a creepy and ominous feel.  "The Exorcism of Emily Rose" is widely available on all formats and is a great watch so check it out!

For more information on the real case of Annaleise Michel Check out this Link http://www.chasingthefrog.com/reelfaces/emilyrose.php

 

"The Devil Inside" Needs to be Unleashed


The Devil Inside
9/18/2012


Simply put "The Devil Inside" could be described as "The Blair Witch Project" meets "The Exorcist".  It's also quite similar to "The Last Exorcism" which I previously reviewed.  "The Devil Inside" was in theaters at the beginning of the year and took in a pretty impressive $33 million its first weekend.

The movie opens with a 911 call and a woman saying she has killed three people.  This is Maria Rossi and the main question about her and about possession cases in general is that is she really possessed? or just mentally ill?  Maria is taken into custody and is eventually sent to a mental hospital in Rome.  We then pick up the story of her daughter Isabella, played by Fernanda Andrade, who has teamed up a documentary film crew as she is about to visit her mother for the first time.  Luckily Isabella and the whole cast for that matter are all attractive and easy to look at (since this is a "real" documentary and all).  It's also a great coincidence that everybody in Italy speaks English and is easy to talk to (just sayin').  Isabella does visit the very real Exorcism School at the Vatican and meet up with a few young priests who help them along the way.  Also the idea of multiple possessions and of demonic transference is brought up and plays a part later on.

All minor annoyances aside this really is a pretty frightening movie.  The acting is pretty incredible, starting with Maria (Suzan Crowley) whose plays crazy and possessed like she is actually crazy and possessed.  Rosa (contortionist Bonnie Morgan) has short scene that is the stuff of nightmares, but with a dash of humanity. Despite what she has been through in her life Isabella is pretty well adjusted and lives a normal life.

Isabella and the group perform a sort of unsanctioned exorcism on Maria at the mental hospital and things get pretty intense.  Something happens that makes this exorcism movie unique.  I won't spoil it but it makes for a interesting third act.  Personally I think  the ending is pretty awesome, but a lot of people hate it.  Since this is a found footage type movie you'd expect this type of ending.  Its abrupt, ambiguous are leaves a lot of questions.  What happened next?  More than likely with the amount of money it took in a sequel can't be far behind.  "The Devil Inside" is now available on DVD, Blu-Ray and digital download so give it a shot.



"The Last Exorcism" Will Leave you Possessed

The Last Exorcism
9/8/2012
 

The exorcism movie has been a staple of the horror genre ever since "The Exorcist" debuted in 1973.  It has experienced a resurgence in recent years with several such films hitting theatres and DVD, mostly boring and tired retreads but a few have really moved the genre forward.  "The Last Exorcism" is one such movie.  It takes on a faux documentary style with handheld camera work, a small budget and unknown actors to really drive home an authentic feel.  Produced in part by horror icon Eli Roth, this film has a great pedigree and hope for greatness.  While costing only a few million dollars it brought in more than $40 million at the box office.  With results like that it's no surprise that a sequel in on the way.

 Growing up with a southern pastor as a father Cotton Marcus (played by Patrick Fabian) has followed in his footsteps ever since he was little and now after years of being a pastor himself, he is ready to get out of the business.  He has a documentary film crew follow him as he "performs" a typical exorcism.  He wants to give away all of his secrets and how everything is staged and nothing but a big sham to bring in some extra cash.  He answers one of the many letters he gets asking for help.  Upon driving to the Sweetzer farm he meets a very sweet and innocent teen girl named Nell.  He does some "tests" and agrees to do an exorcism on her.  This goes like planned and he has another happy customer; until.   Nell mysteriously appears in Cotton's motel room in a trance like state.  Cotton doesn't believe in demonic possession and thinks that Nell is suffering from some sort of mental illness and takes her to a hospital. 

 

The story is very effective in establishing Cotton's character and his motivations.  He has lost his faith and wants to show us how fake his job can be.  Obviously exorcism movies rely heavily on the possessed victim and the performance by Ashley Bell, who plays Nell, is spot on.  She gives a fantastic performance showing fragility and vulnerability while also showing a devilish side that is quite shocking.

 Cotton goes back to the farm and finds himself confronted with a potentially real possession case.  Nell has some obvious problems but are they demonic in nature?  The third act of the film really kicks it in to high gear and introduces another bizarre element to the story.  The ending is loved by some and loathed by others, but this is one horror film that needs to be seen.  "The Last Exorcism" is currently available on Netflix watch instantly.


 

"God Bless America" Dark Comedic Fun!

"God Bless America"
8/18/2012


Dark comedies don't get much darker (or funnier) than 2012's "God Bless America".  Written and directed by 80s comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, who's last directed Robin Williams a few years ago in another dark comedy called "World's Greatest Dad".

In "God Bless America" middle aged every man Frank (played by Joel Murray) is fed with society becoming meaner and meaner.  Kids have developed such a sense of entitlement and self centered greed that the future of human decency looks bleak.  Parents aren't any better as they have stopped being "parents" to their kids.  Reality shows, cable news and rewarding human stupidity are rotting society from the inside out.  Frank is divorced and lives in a cheap apartment with loud and inconsiderate young neighbors whose baby cries at all hours.  Lying in bed one night he has a seriously demented fantasy that I sure most people have had at one time or another.  Frank works in a generic office building with annoyingly stupid co-workers and mind numbing work.  While showing basic human kindness to the receptionist he is fired for "harassing" her.  To top it all off his recent headaches have been caused by a brain tumor.  At the end of his rope with life and society he contemplates suicide.  While watching a reality show about a spoiled brat named Chloe he decides that she needs to die more.  He stakes out her high school and while doing this meets a kindred soul in the form of a teen girl named Roxy (played by Tara Lynne Barr).  Frank and Roxy are a great duo but are strictly platonic friends as Frank is a very moral person who thinks people have lost their basic decency and respect for others.  This being said they start off on a road trip killing mean people along the way.



Obviously this movie was made before the tragic movie theatre shooting in Colorado, so when Frank and Roxy start killing obnoxious and rude theatre goers it makes this movie all the more darker.  The most disturbing part is that your cheering them on while they do it all while thinking this is soooooo wrong.  Frank and Roxy are extremely likeable and relatable. They have great chemistry and are sort of like a Bonnie and Clyde.  This movie does take place in a sort of fantasy world and could very well all be taking place in Frank's head or in a dream.  Like a lot of comedies the less you really think about it the better. 


This movie is extremely satirical and sarcastic and is not for everyone.  If you like your comedies like your coffee (black and bitter) you'll love "God Bless America"  It is now out on DVD and Blu-Ray and currently available through Netflix Watch Instantly.


"We Need to Talk About Kevin" Seriously We Do!

We Need to Talk About Kevin
8/3/2012

 
In the final review of the Summer of Swinton tribute to actress Tilda Swinton we arrive at the 2011 film "We Need to Talk About Kevin".  Like most all of Swinton's films, this drama packs a powerful and brutal emotional punch.  This was also the third feature film by critically acclaimed Scottish director Lynn Ramsay who's previous films were "Ratcatcher" and "Morvern Callar"

Swinton plays Eva Khatchadourian a wife, mother, author and world traveler.  Her husband Franklin is played by the extremely versatile John C. Reilly, who is more or less relegated to the supportive husband role but still turns in a great performance.  Since the story is told over the course of their son Kevin's life, Kevin is played by three different actors.  Mostly disturbingly by Ezra Miller as the teenage version.  This movie is about the relationship between a mother and son.  It is about Eva's need for freedom and to never be tied down.  It's also a classic case of nature versus nurture as there are many difficult questions raised by what happens.


The story is told in a non-linear format which seamlessly jumps back and fourth in time in the lives of Eva, Franklin, Kevin, and their younger daughter Celia.  We start with the aftermath of an "event" and Eva being a local pariah, openly being slapped in the face and called names in public.  We flash back to an earlier time in her life and her relationship with Franklin and her pregnancy with Kevin.  After he is born Eva and Kevin have a hard time bonding.  Even as an infant and a toddler he openly antagonized her and makes her life a living hell.  He seems to gets along just fine with his father and he even throws that into her face.  After not starting to talk until very late, Kevin is taken to a doctor and he checks out just fine.  Is he not talking on purpose just to spite Eva?  Through the years Kevin gets even more violent and manipulative, then to a point of just plain sadism. 


"We Need to Talk About Kevin" is a drama that ends up playing like a psychological horror movie reminiscent of "The Omen".  Although done in a extremely real and down to earth way.  From birth Kevin is a soulless being who's only mission in life is to torment his mother (sound like your kids?), who when she became pregnant wasn't sure she wanted him to begin with.  Did Kevin pick up on these negative vibes in the womb?  That would be quite the grudge.  Is this a big message for the pro choice people?  Tilda Swinton puts forth a remarkable performance that earned her a Golden Globe nom for Best Actress.  She also won many other accolades and nominations for her role as Eva. "Kevin" is now out on DVD from Oscilloscope Films and I highly recommend picking it up!

"Young Adam" Starring Tilda Swinton and Ewan McGregor

"Young Adam"
7/28/2012


Love and regret.  Cold weather and hot drama.  The 2003 Scottish film "Young Adam"  stars some of the finest actors working today Ewan McGregor, Tilda Swinton, Emily Mortimer, and Peter Mullan.  Based on a novel by Alexander Trocchi, "Young Adam" is a study in character, mood, and psychology of its well defined characters.

Taking place in 1950's Glasgow, Scotland.  Joe (McGregor) is working on a coal barge, when he sees a woman's body floating towards him.  He and the much older Les (Mullan) drag her aboard. She looks to have been assaulted as she is only wearing a thin petticoat.   Joe seems particularly upset at the site of this, as if he knows something.  Joe's back story is told in a number of flashbacks.  He was a writer who fell in love with a girl named Cathie (Mortimer), their rocky relationship is chronicled in most of the flashbacks.  They eventually show how Joe ended up working on the barge.  Daily life on the barge is cold, cramped, and dirty.  Throw in Les's wife Ella (Swinton) and you have the makings of a sort of one sided love triangle.  Although she half heartedly tries to deny Joe's advances, she ultimately gives into him.  Her marriage to Les is just as cold and bitter as a Glasgow winter.  Les knows their having and affair, but really does nothing to stop them. 

As we find out Joe is really not that good of a person, but he is not really all that bad either.  We also find out what has been haunting him, and there are things he could do to set the record straight, but does he risk his own life to do it?  All of the characters are tortured souls in one way or another, making their way through life like a slow rolling fog.  All of the acting if magnificent, especially by the women.  Nothing is held back and their fearlessness makes a huge impact.

"Young Adam" is rated the dreaded NC-17 for explicit sex and nudity, but its not done in a gratuitous or exploitive way.  Don't let the rating discourage you from seeing this truly great film.  Search it out tonight!




Take a Dip in "The Deep End" with Tilda Swinton



The Deep End
7/8/2012

"The Deep End" premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival and was a breakthrough role for actress Tilda Swinton.  She plays Margaret a fiercely protective mother of three who starts to lose her grip when her gay teen son is caught up in the murder of a night club owner.

The story takes place in Tahoe where Margaret is basically a single mother, since her husband works on aircraft carrier in the Atlantic.  Beau is her oldest at 17 and has been seeing the much older night club owner Darby.  She confront Darby about their relationship at his club called the Deep End and tells him to stay away from Beau and offers him money.

Beau looks to be a good kid who always seems to be getting into trouble and making the wrong decisions.  He is a boy with an absent father and looks up to sleazy Darby.  One night he comes over to visit and they start to argue over his mothers visit and her offer.  A fight breaks out and things get out of hand.  Early the next morning Margaret finds Darby's dead body washed up on shore with a boat anchor lodged in his chest.  She furiously runs around hiding the body and the evidence fearing her son killed him. 

The next day a man appears at her door, its not the police but it's just as bad.  Alek Spera (played by Goran Visnjic, who was on the show ER at the time) and his business partner are con men looking to black mail her with a video tape of Darby and Beau having sex.  He wants $50,000 in 24 hours or he sends the tape to the police.  Although she tries she can't come up with the cash.  The next day when Alek comes to collect Margaret's live in father-in-law had just had a heart attack that moment.  He helps give CPR and eventually saves his life.  This starts off a very strange and interesting relationship between Alek and Margaret.  Alek is the stereotypical con man with a heart of gold.  He feels for Margaret's situation and tries to persuade his partner to call of the black mailing.  This doesn't fly.    

This movie is all about Swinton's performance as a mother who will stop at nothing to protect her son, but also showing how lonely and vulnerable she is with her husband gone for long stretches of time.  Her strength and determination to protect her family and the lengths she is willing to go are remarkable even though she is not sure of her sons innocence.  All while taking care of everyone else and not letting on that something is seriously up.  This is a great character study and Tilda is amazing! So check it Out!



"Martha Marcy May Marlene" Starring Elizabeth Olsen

Martha Marcy May Marlene
6/20/2012

While Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen got fame and fortune for being cute child actors with minimal talent, their younger sister Elizabeth has proven to be the "real" actress in the family.  Making her film debut in writer/director Sean Durkin's magnificent and creatively titled "Martha Marcy May Marlene".  Lizzie shows her sisters how its done by giving one of the best performances by a lead actress in 2011.  While being recognized by critics and film festivals across the country, when the Oscars came around the Academy was apparently not interested.  This is however not surprising seeing how out of touch and irrelevant the Academy Awards have been over the past decade.  


This film is about a young woman's return to "normal" society after spending two years in a cult.  Martha is a regular girl who has dealt with her share of hardships. Her parents are no longer around and she has little contact with her only sister. Looking for a new family and a place to belong she is taken in by a seemingly friendly commune in the Catskills, ead by charismatic leader Patrick (John Hawkes).  The story is opens with Martha leaving the compound and calling her sister at a pay phone.  She is brought out to a spacious vacation home where she tries to mentally and physically free herself from compound life.  Things happen that trigger flash backs and we get to see what life on the cult was like.

Upon Martha's arrival to the compound she quickly makes friends with another girl and is introduced to Patrick who renames her Marcy May.  She goes through a systematic destruction of her old identity and free will and reluctantly becomes one of Patrick's followers. He has recruited this group of drifters and damaged souls seeming for no other reason than he like the feeling of power.  The members in turn look to him as their savior.

After leaving the compound Martha seems to be more lost and alone than ever.  She is in a constant state of paranoia that the cult if after her.  Her sister and her sister's husband try to make sense out of her disappearance but can't get much information out of her except for a bunch of strange outbursts.   Martha and her sister are very different people and have never been that close.  Although they try to help her, Martha is obviously in need of professional help. The feeling and atmosphere of the film is a combination of eerie creepiness and melancholy.  A psychological drama taken to another level by all of the people involved.  The Blu-Ray is loaded with special features including a commentary track from writer/director Sean Durkin.




"Jeff Who Lives at Home" A Duplass Brothers Movie

Jeff Who Lives at Home
6/16/2012

*Contains Some Spoilers, but was made in the USA*

 
From Indie writer/director brothers Mark and Jay Duplass comes the movie that was my favorite film of the 2011 Austin Film Festival and is now available on DVD and On Demand.  This quirky comedy stars Jason Segal and Ed Helms as two very different brothers who are brought together by fate and strange circumstances.

Jason Segal is Jeff, a stoner who lives in his mom's basement.  He strongly believes in fate and that everything in the world is somehow connected and has a purpose.  While sitting on the couch gettin' high he gets a wrong number phone call from a guy asking for "Kevin".  Jeff lets him know that nobody named "Kevin" lives there.  He is then berated by a bunch of angry expletives and hangs up.  This begins Jeff's journey through the film.  He sort of reminds me of another famous slacker named Jeff, "The Dude, or El Duderino if your not into the whole brevity thing"  I'm talking about one of my all-time favorite movies "The Big Lebowski"  Although this Jeff does have his own style, their outlook on life is quite similar.  His mother Sharon is played by Susan Sarandon, an office worker looking for something more in her life as she is starting to feel her age.  She ends up finding excitement in the form of a secret admirer.

Ed Helms plays Jeff's older somewhat more successful brother Pat.  He is married to Linda (Judy Greer) and has just bought a Porsche without consulting her.  Needless to say after dropping this bomb their relationship in walking a fine line.  Since they live in an apartment and don't have any kids, Linda suggests that it would be easy to go their separate ways.  Over the course of the film, with Jeff's help, he rediscovers his love for her and what he really wants out of life.  Finding your place and connecting with family is a big theme in this seemingly dopy comedy.

Taking place over one day Jeff has one job to do.  Take the bus to Home Depot and buy a bottle of glue to fix a kitchen cabinet.  On the bus he is distracted by a guy wearing a basketball jersey with the name "Kevin" on the back.  He thinks this is a sign and follows the guy only to get mugged in the end.  This does however lead him to Pat who is spying on his wife.  She is having lunch with another man and Pat thinks she could be having an affair.  The movie revolves around the brothers relationship and their misadventures.  The Duplass brothers have a unique way of making movies that are very real and heartfelt.  Although not much seems to happen in the course of the story, you can't help but feel like you been on a journey of discovery with these characters. 




"Tyrannosaur" It Rex the Competition ;)

Tyrannosaur
6/10/2012

*May contain spoilers, so wear a helmet*
English Actor Paddy Considine starred in one of my favorite movies of 2002 called "In America" about an Irish family's move to New York City.  Now ten years later Considine has gotten behind the camera to directed his first feature called "Tyrannosaur"  It's a brutally emotional punch to the gut, that will have you thinking about it for days.

Peter Mullen plays Joseph an angry, rage filled older man who in the first scene, after being tossed out of a bar, kicks his dog a little to hard and kills it.  Joseph is extremely lonesome after the death of his wife (and now his dog) he spews his anger and hate to everyone he comes in contact with.  Every little annoyance seems to send him into a rage.  He is however friendly with the neighbor boy who lives with his mother and thug-ish boyfriend.  Joseph is unemployed and after mouthing off to the welfare office and smashing their front window he has a sort of panic attack.  He seeks refuge in a Christian charity shop.  This is were we meet Hannah played by Olivia Colman.

Hannah is warm, caring, and offers to pray with him.  Joseph just gives her the usual mouthful of insults.  Hannah lives in a very nice part of town in a big house with a her husband James.  We find out that all is not right in her seemingly perfect and easy life.  James is fiercely controlling and an angry drunk.  While Joseph uses his words to hurt people, James uses his fists. 

Joseph starts to hang around Hannah's shop and little by little they start to form this weirdly intense relationship.  It's not a sexual one, but they really connect in a real deep down primal way.  They are both extremely damaged people, who are reaching out for someone to bond with.  When James stops by the shop and sees his wife help Joseph try on a suit, he becomes enraged.  Unlike Joseph though he never shows this side to anybody but Hannah and it's no different here.  He promises that he will get her when she gets home.  The things James does to his own wife are quite disturbing and Hannah does something that is equally unforgivable in the eyes of the law. 

Joseph is a very complex man and although his introduction is quite jarring and violent we begin to see that he really is an honorable man deep down, but he puts up such a hard front that its hard for anybody to see it.  The ending of the film really makes you question what is right and what is wrong.  It's not really a happy ending or is it? 

"Tyrannosaur" is available on Netflix watch instantly so see it tonight!


"Apartment 1303" Asian Horror Worthy of an American Re-make

Apartment 1303
05/30/2012

Starting about ten years ago an explosion of Asian horror movies made their way to the United States and many have been remade.  "The Ring" and "The Grudge" being the most popular of the dozen or so remakes.  The Japanese movie "Apartment 1303" was released in 2007 and is now being remade with Mischa Barton starring.  The remake has yet to be released and like most movies these day is in 3D.

The original "Apartment 1303" is quite similar in theme to "The Grudge" in that it revolves around the spirits of a mother and daughter that years back were involved in a murder suicide.  The apartment is now cursed and infects all of the future female tenants.  Asian horror films almost always involves some sort of ghost story or restless spirit that wreaks havoc on the living from beyond the grave

Sayaka is a young woman who gets a deal on her first apartment.  So she throws a party to celebrate.  She then unexpectedly jumps off the balcony to her death in front of everybody.  Her sister Mariko is convinced that it wasn't a suicide and starts her own investigation.  The girls' mother is so grief stricken that her favorite daughter has died she spirals into madness.  Like a lot of J-Horror films, "Apartment 1303" relies a lot on atmosphere, suspense and creepiness.  Mariko finds out that her sister is the fifth young woman to have jumped of the balcony and starts to see the ghosts of the mother and daughter who haunt the place.

The back story and origins of the curse are revealed and all of the horrible things that have happened there.  The story is heavily structured and planned out, but is quite an enjoyable watch for the causal horror fan.  This movie is apart of the Tartan Asian Extreme DVD series.  Add it to your Netflix queue today.



"Tomboy" A Uniquely Real Achievement

Tomboy
5/7/2012



There have been countless coming of age movies made in countless different ways and approaches, but "Tomboy" is quite the unique achievement.  Directed by Celine Sciamma of the previously reviewed "Water Lilies", "Tomboy" is a heartfelt look at a 10 year old girl's summer as a boy.


Laure is at that stage in her life were she looks rather androgynous, her hair is short, she wears gender neutral clothes and is trying to figure out who she is.  Her and her family have just moved to a new town and she is searching for a place to belong.  She meets Lisa, a neighbor girl about her age, and after a moment introduces herself as Michael.  Michael then meets up with a group of other neighborhood kids who also accept her as a boy. 


Laure's family life is quite loving and supportive.  Her mother is pregnant with her third, while her father holds down a good job.  She is also best friends with her 6 year old sister.  So why does she feel the need to have people thinks she is a boy?

Michael keeps pushing the boundaries of how far she can go as a boy and there are a few moments of embarrassment along the way. He/she develops a pretty close relationship with Lisa and you start to wonder if she knows who he/she really is.  Laure's life as a boy is kept a tight secret from her parents, but when her sister finds out, she helps keep the secret and they have a fun time with it.  Michael/Laure is very protective of her little sister so when one the kids in the group is mean to her, she takes offense and fights the kid, and wins.  This prompts the kids mother to visit Laure's mother and her secret is spilled.  Determined to set things straight Laure's mother puts a dress on her and brings her to the boys house and then to Lisa's to show them she who she really is.  The mother is not angry that Laure is acting and dressing like a boy, but that she has been lying to everybody around her about who she really is.  Laure is also, remember, 10 years old and is acting in the moment.  Will she be like this when she is 15? 20? 30?  I would think this is probably just a phase, but the film doesn't give any direct answers.  It's just a short glimpse into the life of a girl and her family.
The realism and acting in this film is nothing short of extraordinary.  It is not overly dramatized and melodramatic, but through that acting, the characters, and the simplistic story there is something to it that makes it feel so authentic.  Zoë Haren is the young actress who plays Laure/Michael and is the driving force behind its success.  "Tomboy" is a good "discussion" movie.  Does it have ulterior motives?  Why does Laure pretend to be a boy? and many other things could be asked of it.  The film has won a few international awards and can currently be seen on several On Demand services.



"The Innkeepers" Deserves a Visit

The Innkeepers
5/2/2012

This is Writer/ Director Ti West's follow up to the 2010 sleeper hit "House of the Devil". His filmmaking style is very apparent in "The Innkeepers".  He is know for his slow burn style of horror that, like a lot of Hitchcock classics, relies on strong characters and story rather that intense blood and gore.

Sara Paxton and Pat Healy play Claire and Luke the two employees working the last weekend of the closing Yankee Pedlar Inn.  They are both pretty geeky but real and highly relatable.  They are good friends and just trying to get through the weekend as there are only a few guests.  You really get to know and Claire and Luke and feel that they could be your friends.  So when things start to happen you actually fear for their safety, rather than cheering for their death.


Luke is an amateur paranormal investigator and the Pedlar has long thought to be haunted by the ghost of Madeline O'Malley who was murdered there in the early 1900s.  Claire is cute and dorky and at times acts like a ten year old which is not annoying but makes her a more sympathetic character.  She also uses an inhaler for her asthma which comes into play a few times.  One of the final guest to arrive is a former television star and current psychic healer Leanne Rease-Jones (played by Kelly McGillis).  Claire is a big fan of hers and connects with her in a number of ways.  The last guest is an old man coming to stay one more night in the honeymoon suite that he and his deceased wife stayed in many years ago.  He is a very creepy and mysterious old man who has bigger plans in store for himself.

The movie is dialogue driven and moves at a pretty slow pace which could irritate some people expecting an action packed blood bath.  The movies relies a lot on a suspenseful atmosphere to reach an emotionally rich climax.  There are still a bunch of scares and disturbing images most of which are quite effective and well earned.  The films musical score also really help to build the suspense as well as the camerawork.  But it really comes down to the characters and the acting which is pretty damn good even for a horror movie.  I would suggest buying the DVD or Blu-Ray as it has 2 commentary tracks and other special features.  It's not yet available on Netflix streaming but is available at most Redboxes.