"Knock, Knock" Should be Left Unanswered


Director Eli Roth's 5th film "Knock, Knock" was released through Video on Demand in the fall of 2015.  It's a departure from his usual over the top gore fests and it also starred a known Hollywood actor in Keanu Reeves.  This film would be classified as a twist on the home invasion thriller.

Keanu plays Evan an architect and family man who lives in a nice house in Los Angeles with his artist wife who does colorful sculptures.  Evan is an aging hipster who used to be a DJ and has a killer vinyl collection.  He's a laid back dude who is good with his kids, but his marriage is going through a rough patch.  His wife and kids have gone off on a mini beach vacation so he can get some much-needed work done, but his deadlines are about to be the least of his problems.

During a torrential downpour the first evening there is a knock, knock at the door.  Two young, sexy girls are soaking wet and asking if they can use his phone because they are having car trouble on their way to a party.  Genesis and Bell are played by Lorenza Izzo, of "Green Inferno" fame and Roth's wife, and Ana de Armas.   Evan is very polite and accommodating.  He gets them towels and calls Uber to get them a ride to the party, although it will be 45 minutes until the car will be there.  There is an awkward tension between the three and you can immediately see where the story is headed and doesn't deviate from the expected plan.  The girls are aggressive and unrelenting in there tormenting of Evan.  His morality conundrum eventually cracks and they have a shower threesome.  The morning after the girls are still there and are making a mess not only of his kitchen but his life.  From here on out Evan goes into full "Keanu" mode as his acting is just an awful mess.  In his defense, the script doesn't give him much to work with as the focus is mainly on the two psycho sluts that make his life a living hell.  They deface his wife's artwork and in another cringe-inducing scene, Bell videotapes herself raping him wearing his daughter's school uniform.  They lie, threaten and torture him until Lewis, his wife's art dealer, come over to pick up some pieces for a show.  He sees right through their charades and calls them out only to take an unfortunate fall.

I didn't particularly care for this movie as it seems to be too much in love with itself.  Which is a part of all of Eli's work but in "Knock, Knock" is just seems to be trying too hard.  The girls were completely insufferable and annoying matched with Keanu's "acting" it's just a one trick pony, that didn't deliver the goods.  

Sink Your Teeth Into "The Green Inferno"


It's been a long time since horror maestro Eli Roth has directed a movie, 2007 to be exact, with the sequel "Hostel 2".  His new film "The Green Inferno" is only his 4th feature and it almost didn't see the light of day as it took over two years to find distribution.  It had a brief theatrical run in the summer of 2015 and took in about $7 million on a budget of about 6.

Eli is a special kind of filmmaker whose films are events to behold.  The classic cult film director.  "The Green Inferno" pays tribute to his favorite film "Cannibal Holocaust" a 1980 film by Ruggero Deodato, along with several other films about jungle cannibals.  The story here involves a group of college activists protesting the destruction of the Amazon rainforests and the killing of its indigenous people.  Our female protagonist is Justine, played by non-other than Eli's new wife Lorenza Izzo.  She is a college freshman who is drawn into a student activist group led by the charismatic Alejandro.  The group boards a plane for the Amazon with a plan to stream their protest online to bring more attention to the plight of locals.  Unknown to Justine she is being used as a pawn to further their cause because her father is a politician.  The protest is successful but their celebration is short-lived as their small plane has engine trouble and goes down in the Peruvian jungle.  The crash was is pretty brutal and intense.  A good tip if you actually survive a plane crash would be to please watch out for the propeller.  In a short time, the survivors are then taken hostage by a group of red-skinned tribesmen.

Although the film doesn't feel at all slow-paced, we don't end up meeting the natives until about 45 minutes in.  Of course, these people have a taste for human flesh and the first person on the butcher block is the fat guy.  We are then treated to some of Eli Roth's famous ultra gore.  Although there are equal parts horror and humor.  The humor goes to some ridiculous places that really play to Roth's fans.  The remaining survivors are kept in a bamboo cage and the women are given a once-over by the high priestess.  Justine is found out to be a virgin (Ha!) and is scheduled for ritual genital mutilation.  This was foreshadowed in a class lecture at the beginning of the film.  The dwindling group must come up with a plan to escape but are being watched 24/7.  They are able to distract the guard with a cell phone and one of the girls escapes never to be seen again (in one piece anyway).  Then there is the human pot brownie and their final plan to escape.  Do stoned cannibals get the munchies?  Obviously, Justine is the final girl and manages to escape and make it back home.  She tells everybody that the natives were not cannibals at all and they were very caring and helpful, which is the same ending as the 1981 film "Cannibal Ferox", which is itself a knockoff of "Cannibal Holocaust".  Justine could see humanity in the tribes' people, she bonded with a little girl that eventually helped her escape.  The movie is crazy and ridiculous but that is why you see an Eli Roth film, he's not afraid to go there, and good or bad his films always elicit a response.

In a bit of no so coincidental scheduling Eli's 5th film "Knock, Knock" was released via on-demand at about the same time that "The Green Inferno" was in theatres.  Look for that review coming soon.

1998 The Year of Gwyneth "Shakespeare in Love"

"Shakespeare in Love"

Gwyneth Paltrow's crowning achievement of 1998 and her career for that matter was playing Viola in John Madden's multiple Academy Award-winning film "Shakespeare in Love".  The fictitious story of a young William Shakespeare in the midst of a crippling writer's block and finding the inspiration to write one of the greatest love stories of all time.

Set in London, the year is 1593 and two dueling theatre houses compete for services of an up and coming writer, poet, and actor named Will Shakespeare, played by Joseph Fiennes. His hotly anticipated new play is still percolating in his head but so far he is unable to commit it to paper.  It's tentatively titled "Romeo and Ethel: The Pirate's Daughter" although hilarious needs a lot of work.  Will is uninspired and lifeless until he meets the regal and ravishing Viola De Lesseps.  She is, however, unavailable and has been promised to Lord Wessex (Colin Firth) by her father.  Wessex is a demanding and controlling brute who needs this marriage to bring his family name back into prominence.  

Viola is equally taken with Will as they meet at a formal dance, that he has wriggled in to.  She is also a big fan of the theatre and in a time when women were banned from performing on the stage she must come up with a plan to see more of him.  She disguise's herself as a young man named Thomas Kent and auditions for Will's new play.  Will can see there is something special about Thomas and must find out more. Viola's rouse it up quickly and Will has finally found his muse.  Their illicit affair rages on despite their circumstances.  Will's pen now furiously churns out the pages of what is now called "Romeo And Juliet", under the recommendation of the towns lead actor Ned Alleyn (played by Ben Affleck).

In time Wessex catches wind of Viola's new suitor and looks to put a strong and decisive end to it.  While Viola and Will's romance slowly leaks out she is forced out of the play due to her being an actual woman and not a man in drag.  She does, however, make a triumphant return to the stage upon the plays opening performance for the Queen (Judi Dench).  The film certainly doesn't end like your average Hollywood Rom-Com and should be commended for it.  It ends and a very hopeful and positive beat, very truthful and real

This film is not your average romantic comedy although all the ingredients are there.  It's extremely smart, witty, and fun to watch.  The filmmakers were able to make it thoroughly accessible and enjoyable for everyone.  It went on to win 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Lead Actress in Paltrow, and Best Supporting Actress in Dench. 


1998 The Year of Gwyneth "Sliding Doors"

"Sliding Doors"

"Sliding Doors" premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and got a limited theatrical release in the Spring.  Coincidentally Gwyneth's character is named Helen just as in the previously reviewed "Hush", but this Helen has a proper British accent and lives in London.

The story is a high concept what if style romantic comedy that asks the question of how different would your life be if you made or missed a subway ride home.  Helen is fired or "sacked" from her job at a PR firm and while trying to catch the train back home the storyline fractures into two paths.  Meanwhile, her wanker of a boyfriend is at home shagging some skag.  When Helen catches her ride home she walks in on the unsuspecting couple, what a day.  She leaves him and looks to get a new start by getting her long hair chopped off and dyed blond.  On the other hand, when she misses her ride she also misses out on a chance to reinvent herself and is stuck in her current life and relationship.  Sometimes the bad things in life are actually a blessing in disguise would be the overall message or meaning of the film.

The way the filmmakers work with this story structure is well done and thoughtfully put together, although not without its convenient coincidences.  It still doesn't have its typical romantic comedy clich├ęs.  The new and single Helen starts dating a man who she meets on that train and their ensuing relationship follows a fairly well-known path.  The ending is pretty interesting as both timelines end up converging into one.  The film also questions fate.  If two people are meant to together do it matter what path they take to get there?  It's a fun movie that's worth watching as it looks like it has something to say rather than just being a mindless bore like 90% of all other romantic comedies.


1998 The Year of Gwyneth "Hush"


When you're in five movies in one year they can't all be good and "Hush" was Gwyneth's 1998 lame duck of a movie.  She co-stars with Jessica Lange in what looks to be the perfect Lifetime Network movie of the week.  Although dumped into theatres in the spring of '98 it's your typical paint by numbers thriller that panders to the female audience.

Gwyneth plays Helen and girl that gets pregnant with her one dimensional Ken doll of a boyfriend/husband named JacksonJackson's family has tons of money and his mother Martha (Lange) owns a ranch out in the country.  The newlyweds look to start their family on the ranch and the expected catfighting between Helen and Martha starts immediately.  Martha is extremely controlling and protective of her son.  She overplays the role of the evil mother-in-law to a comical extreme.  In fact, we learn that she even orchestrated Helen's pregnancy for her own diabolical reasons. 

The whole estate known as Kilronan actually belongs to Jackson and her is very keen on selling the place by Martha won't have it and will do anything to keep it.  The whole film is built on this triangle of characters that are poorly developed.  Jackson is just a cardboard cutout of a character that is fought over by the two women who are equally weak and plainly drawn.  You feel for and root for Helen but it's just so ridiculous you end up crying "really?" 

The soap opera continues with Martha pulling all the strings and with Jackson going off to a horse show, the two women can fight it out.  Helen giving birth is probably the most intense scene of a film that's void of any real suspense or thrills.  Martha's attempts to steal the baby and kill Helen are short-lived when Jackson arrives and learns the truth about his father's death and his mother's other lies.  Martha is thoroughly dispatched and the happy couple and baby live happily ever after the end.  However, if you like the cheesy and overreacted Lifetime movies you'll probably like this one, however it was not for me and cannot recommend it.  If you're more looking for Gwyneth using a British accent then stay tuned for the next review in the series "Sliding Doors".

1998 The Year of Gwyneth "A Perfect Murder"

"A Perfect Murder"

The next film in the Year of Gwyneth is a remake of the Alfred Hitchcock film "Dial M for Murder" entitled "A Perfect Murder".  Directed by Andrew Davis and starring Michael Douglas leaning on his Gordon Gekko character from "Wall Street" as a ruthless New York City stockbroker, although he goes by Steven Taylor in this film.  His young trophy wife Emily has gotten bored with him and has wrapped herself up in a steamy affair with the handsome and rugged artist David.  Once David wises up to her infidelities he hatches a plan to take care of everything.

The themes and storylines are pretty basic but are done quite well by all of those involved.  It's all about the cat and mouse games being played by all three characters and who knows what and at what time.  Steven is a cunning and smart man who researches David's past and comes up with some pretty unsettling information.  He then offers a deal to David that he can't refuse.  Steven's grand scheme to murder Emily goes awry and leaves him in a vulnerable position as David now tries to pull off a plan of his own.

Although Emily was attacked she doesn't fall into the poor victim category for very long.  She and Steven spend some time in the country to recuperate, but the gears in his mind are always grinding away.  He meets with David and their inner chess match continues, although Steven has never lost a game and David is just cocky enough to give him a run for his money both literally and figuratively.  Emily returns home still a little jumpy and on edge but knows that something just doesn't add up.  She begins to suspect that Steven is hiding something and does some investigating of her own.  As Steven and David's confrontations come to an end its time for Emily put up a fight as well.

"A Perfect Murder" is entertaining and fun to watch, with decent performance and good pacing throughout.  There might be a few holes here and there but for a movie that was released along with all the Summer blockbusters, it's a welcomed treat.