Saturday, April 27, 2013

American Mary

Description from Netflix:
Medical student Mary Mason is becoming dissatisfied with her path in life, mostly because she’s piling up massive debt.  But when she’s offered a lucrative opportunity to get involved in extreme body-modification surgeries, she jumps at the chance.

My thoughts:
Sure.  The massive debt factored into her dissatisfaction.  She was in school to become a surgeon, after all, and that isn’t cheap.
You know what her main driving decision was, though?  My money would be on getting drugged and raped by one of her professors.  She had delved into the world of body modification before that point, but it was more of a one-off surgery to get some money.  After being raped, she dropped out of school and started doing body-modification on a more full-time basis.

First, the good.  I loved Katharine Isabelle as Mary Mason.  She had a complex character to play, and she nailed every scene.  I can’t imagine a better actress for this role.

Whether through the style or my sheer confusion, I found myself interested the entire time.  The running time is 103 minutes, but I never once felt bored, or found myself staring at my watch, imploring it to move along.  Considering it’s a slow-moving movie, that’s a pretty impressive feat.
To me, this film kind of had the same feel as Excision.  But that’s probably because they both involve surgery, and I’m not very imaginative when it comes to comparing movies.

Anyone who knows me know that I enjoy a good revenge movie.  I assume it comes from my love of Westerns.  (Also, Payback is one of my all-time favorite movies.)  So, when this film took a turn towards the revenge side of things, I was completely on board.  It was a different kind of revenge than I was used to.  After all, she was a surgeon.  Things were bound to get really weird.
And they did.
But only a little bit.  And that was only a minor part of the story.

And that was really my main problem with this film.  It didn’t seem like it knew what it wanted to be.  It was all over the map.  It was a revenge movie.  It was a female empowerment movie.  It was a cautionary tale to those heading down the wrong path.  It was a kind of love story. 

It was all those things and more.  Sometimes it worked.  Other times, it felt directionless.  A bunch of ideas all crammed into one movie, without necessarily being connected all the time.  It felt disjointed and strained.  It definitely could’ve been tightened up a bit.

I can apply that same criticism to the characters in general.  Many of them seemed to change depending on the scene.  More specifically, Mary’s character changed multiple times throughout the film, often with little-to-no reason.  Scene-to-scene, I never knew what I was going to get.  Would it be the confident surgeon?  The revenge-seeker with ice water in her veins?  The timid student?  The hardened businesswoman?  As I mentioned earlier, Katharine Isabelle was great as all those things, but the swing between all of them was jarring at times.

I feel like they were trying to make a very important movie with a very important message, yet I didn’t quite understand because of the disjointed nature of it all.  However, it’s also quite possible that I didn’t get it because I’m not an overly intelligent person.  That option is certainly still on the table.

As it was, I still liked it.  But I feel like I easily could’ve loved this film.
This is only the second full-length film from the Twisted Twins (Jen & Sylvia Soska).  While far from perfect, it showed a ton of promise.  I can’t wait to see what they do next. 

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Let's Talk About: World War Z trailer

Don't worry.  This isn't going to become a trailer-review blog.  I've got a review of American Mary on the way.  But I felt the need to say something about this.

I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I really don't care if zombies are fast or not.  I know they're not the standard Romero zombies, but it doesn't bother me a bit.  If you want to put fast zombies in your movie, more power to you.  I've seen a number of good, fast-zombie movies.  So the fact that these zombies are runners doesn't bother me in the slightest.

I have read this book, and, like everyone who has read this book, I love it.  I have also listened to the audio book twice now, because it's amazing.  (In case you haven't heard, they are releasing an unabridged version of the audiobook on May 14.  And yes, I will be listening to it.)

That being said, I'm still really looking forward to this movie.  Basically, it looks like they have taken scenes from the book (Yonkers, the desert shooting exercises, etc.), and are using the Pitt character (IMDB tells me his name is Gerry Lane) as a way to connect them all together.

The first time I saw this preview, I was a little annoyed.  That goes against the very spirit of the book.  This isn't an oral history of the zombie war.  This is one man being the hero.

But, after thinking about it for a bit and seeing it again, I'm okay with that.

To film a movie as the book was written would be a bit disjointed.  Too many characters.  Too many locations.

I'm not saying that this is the best way to do it.  And I'm not saying it's going to be a great movie.  But what I am saying is that I think it could be good, and I'm very much looking forward to it.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Let's Talk About: The Purge trailer

As you know, I saw Evil Dead this past week.  One of the trailers before the movie was for The Purge.  I had heard some excited giggles about it, but didn't know anything about it.
Anyway, here it is.

At first blush, I was kind of excited about it.  It looks creepy and intense and all those things a good thriller should be.
And it has a pretty cool premise.  For one night out of the year, anything goes.  All that murderous rage you have pent up inside of you?  Let it out.  Kill a hobo.  Hell, kill an honor student.  The only authority you have to answer to is your own conscience (also, if that honor student's parents happen to have machetes at the ready, you will also have to answer to them).  Apparently 12 crime-filled-hours a year is enough to keep the crime rate down the other 364 days of the year.  (And, also, enough to keep unemployment amazingly low.)

But, the more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it all seemed.
Why are they wearing masks?  I don't deny that it's creepy, but why would they wear them?  They can't be punished for the things they do during The Purge.  I suppose it's possible there's an actual reason for this, but I doubt it.  I'm guessing they're wearing them to be creepy.  When really...who cares?  If I were in the house, I wouldn't care whether the people trying to kill me were in masks or not in masks.  I would just be trying to survive.  The masks wouldn't really concern me in that situation.
It all just feels a bit too much like The Strangers, but in different circumstances.
Don't get me wrong: I liked The Strangers.  Sure, I felt it could've been quite a bit better, but I still enjoyed myself (if for no other reason than seeing Dennis Reynolds take a shotgun blast to the head.  That guy...always joking).  That doesn't mean I want to watch a different version of it.
And, in The Strangers, they had a reason to wear the masks.  They could've been arrested if either Liv Tyler or Scott Speedman (I don't remember the character names, so I'm assuming they just played themselves in that movie) survived and was able to identify them.  That line of logic is irrelevant in The Purge.  Like I said, perhaps there is a reason for them wearing masks (they're the neighbors and don't want to be judged for killing someone, they fear retribution the next year, they're working for the government, etc.), but, since one of the characters has his mask off at the door, I'm left to assume there are no such reasons.  Which makes them irrelevant.

What kind of system - one that relies on keeping a family safe in the face of a yearly murderthon - can be disarmed by a kid?  Just by pushing a single button?  You gotta password protect that thing.

The line "Nothing will ever be okay ever again" annoys me to no end.  I have no idea what has happened up to that point, but I have a pretty good idea (my "good idea" revolves around Ethan Hawke dismembering a body with a hacksaw in front of his children).  Still, it's an obnoxious, overdramatic and obvious line.  I hope it doesn't make it into the movie.

This has nothing to do with the movie, but I just read that Lena Heady is broke.  That makes me sad.  I've always liked her.  I've seen her in quite a bit, and she's always been great.  Keep your head up, Lena.  It's gonna be okay.

I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed the shot of them watching the neighbor sharpening his machete.  I really want to do that at some point.

I have no doubt in my mind that I will watch this at some point.  But I do not have high hopes for it.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Evil Dead

Description from Netflix:
When a group of friends vacations at an isolated cabin in the woods, they discover an evil Book of the Dead – and unwittingly release a swarm of bloodthirsty demons in this spine-chilling remake of Sam Raimi’s classic horror flick.

My thoughts:
I should probably stop using the Netflix recap as a starting point.  I feel like I’m correcting it half the time.  Including this one.
The friends were not so much “vacationing” as they were “helping a friend who was trying to break her heroin addiction.”  Same thing, really.
I really liked the heroin angle.  It gave all the characters a reason to be there.  It also gave the characters a reason to write-off the initial craziness of the possessed Mia.  “So she’s talking in weird voices, pacing in the driving rain and talking about seeing strange girls in the woods?  Big deal.  She’s trying to quit heroin cold turkey.”  In that sense, it was kind of brilliant.
The only thing that could’ve made that set-up better was if we, the audience, were also in the dark about it.  I didn’t love Lovely Molly, but I liked how it kept me in suspense.  Was she possessed, or was she just messed up by her drug use?  With that movie, it was never really clear.  With this movie, we already know she’s possessed.  There’s no ambiguity, and that tension is lost.  Not that it’s a big deal, really, but it was hard not to watch this and not at least think about Lovely Molly.

All that aside…
I loved this movie.  It wasn’t without its problems, for sure.  The acting was uneven (at best).  The script left quite a bit to be desired.  Some of the actions of the characters – especially Eric – ranked up near the top of some of the worst decisions I’ve ever seen any characters make.  In the scene where he actually unleashes the demon from the Necronomicon, he makes a series of terrible decisions.  Here are those decisions, in order:
1. When they find the book, they had just walked through a basement full of hanging dead cats.  The book is wrapped in a black garbage bag, then wrapped in barbed wire.  WRAPPED IN BARBED WIRE.

Looks inviting.  Let me curl up for a few hours with this puppy

2. After Eric cuts through the barbed wire, he looks at the book.  (In the original Evil Dead, the book was bound in human flesh.  I don’t remember them specifying the binding in this film, but it certainly looked like it could be flesh.)  There are numerous warnings written in large letters throughout the book.  My favorite being the all-caps “Don’t say it don’t write it don’t hear it.”

"Probably just a joke.  I'll do all those things."

3. Of course, he picks that page to stop on and start reading.  I take that back.  He doesn’t start reading.  Because the words that need to be read to summon the demon can’t be seen clearly.  So he takes a piece of paper, places it over the raised letters, and starts scribbling.  Like Lebowski finding a pornographic drawing.  Except with demon-summoning.
4. As he finds the words, he says them out loud.  To no one but himself, the twerpy little wannabe professor says them out loud.  Which, of course, summons the demon and gets poor Mia possessed.
5. After he does all this, and after he sees Mia behaving in a way that no one – not even a recovering heroin addict – would act, he still doesn’t say anything about the book until more people are infected.  And dead.  Because Eric is the worst.

Seriously.  Just look at this guy. I bet he loves talking about Walden.

That’s just one string of terrible decision making by one character.  This movie was full of them.  (Although, to be fair, this was the absolute worst of them.)

Still, despite my problems with the movie, I really, really loved this movie.  It was pretty tense throughout, and had quite a few legitimate scares, as well as a few jump-scares that got me. 
And the gore.  Oh man…the gore.  On top of the crazy amounts of fake blood used (buckets and buckets of blood), they also did a great job working in some incredibly gruesome scenes (hacking off limbs, bashing in heads with sinks, cutting tongues in half with box cutters, etc.).  It’s all a bit crazy, and definitely not for the feint of heart.  But I felt that it worked really well within the movie.  This wasn’t torture porn.  This wasn’t cutting people up just for the sake of showing people getting cut up.  This gore was all within the context of the film.  And it was beautiful and terrible.

What I really loved about this film was the fact that, while this was a dark & twisted movie, it also seemed like the filmmakers really had fun making it.  There was definitely a sense of devilish glee that ran throughout.  I could almost hear them giggling as they figured out more ways to dump massive amounts of blood on our heroes. 

I also really loved the subtle nods to the original.  There were plenty of scenes that were pulled directly from the original (not a surprise, seeing as how it’s a remake), but they also sprinkled in a lot of smaller references.  These are some of the ones I caught:
1. When we first meet Mia, she is wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt.  In the original, Linda was wearing a Michigan State sweatshirt.
2. When we meet Mia, she is sitting on top of a car that resembles Sam Raimi’s famous 1973 Oldsmobile Delta.
3. Mia’s brother (David) gives her a necklace that vaguely resembles the necklace Ash gives to Linda.

I’m sure there were more (and, like I mentioned, a lot of them were more obvious and built into the story), but I thought these three little scenes were a pretty cool subtle homage to the original.

A couple more small movie references from me:
Eric – the high school teacher who seemed to fancy himself a college professor – really took a beating in this movie.  I didn’t like him at all, but I started to feel bad for him after a while.  And yet, he kept coming back.  In that regard, he reminded me a little of Red from Pineapple Express.  Sadly, there was no mention of a Daewoo Lanos.

Possessed Mia said some terrible things to her brother about what was happening to the soul of his actual sister (since a demon now possessed her body and all).  A lot of what she was saying seemed to come almost directly from The Exorcist.

Overall, I really loved this movie.  It’s definitely not for everybody, but I thought it was terrific.  I wouldn’t be surprised if it ends up being my favorite movie of the year.  Granted, it’s still pretty early in the year (and I really loved Mama, as well), but this movie was fantastic.  While it’s hard not to compare it to the original, I didn’t find myself holding it up to the original.  It stands on its own as a great horror film. 

Rating: 5/5