Saturday, September 20, 2014

Tusk (USA, 2014)

Nine Things About the Movie "Tusk" (USA, 2014)

1. There’s really only one thing you need to know about this movie: It’s about a guy that kidnaps another guy and starts turning him into a walrus. If that sounds interesting to you, then you can stop reading this and go watch the movie. If it doesn’t sound interesting to you, then you can stop reading this and don’t go watch the movie.

2. This movie continues director Kevin Smith’s evolution away from the films that made him famous - like “Clerks” and “Mallrats”. He made his first real break from his past in 2011 with the minor masterpiece “Red State”, which most people didn’t even recognize was a Kevin Smith movie.

3. “Tusk” is the first of a trilogy about weird things that happen in Canada.

4. It’s based on a prank personal ad of a guy that wanted a roommate, as long as the roommate wore a walrus costume 2 hours a day. Even though the ad wasn’t real, Smith saw it and ran with the idea.

5. The acting is great. Justin Long owns his role as the dickhead podcaster that gets captured. Michael Parks (from “Red State”) is totally believable as the traumatized old man doomed to repeat the best and worst moment of his life. He manages to balance the insanity of the character with the wounded little boy that he really is.

6. Kevin Smith admits he made this movie while stoned.

7. Speaking of stoned, Smith helped to create a “Tusk”-brand strain of marijuana, which is meant to be enjoyed with the movie.

8. There is a special guest star in the movie that I totally didn’t recognize until I saw his name in the credits.

9. This is a hard-to-categorize film. It’s definitely horror, but it’s definitely comedy. And it’s most definitely macabre. It doesn’t always work perfectly, but it gets under your skin and makes you feel very strange. There are some amazing moments here. And if you look under the surface, you will find a very strong metaphor for the animal vs. human instincts in each of us.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Elephant (USA, 2003)

Nine Things About the Movie Elephant (USA, 2003)

1. This is Gus Van Sant’s minimalist interpretation of a school shooting. It was the second “school shooting” movie released after Columbine (that I know of). As an indie art film, this movie is decent. As a Van Sant film, it’s below average. As a depiction of the circumstances surrounding a school shooting, this movie is laughably terrible.

2. The young actors did a lot of open improvising as they did their scenes. You can tell. Just like there’s a certain self-conscious awkwardness to most performances, like they know they are being filmed and are trying not to look at the camera.

3. The movie is told non-linearly, jumping back and forth in time, showing various perspectives of different high school students as they roam the hallways on the last day of their lives.

4. The cinematography is kind of impressive, using long camera shots to piece the timeline together like a puzzle. But every frame is so tightly choreographed that it backfires and makes the whole “spontaneous” feeling of the movie seem really staged and artificial.

5. A lot of the movie just shows people walking around, acting kind of bored with life. Even after the shooting starts, people never really seem more than mildly concerned.

6. Even though it’s a big school there appear to be only 75 people in the whole building. And when they realize they are in mortal danger they run - or rather, walk more quickly - everywhere except for the exits.

7. The propaganda component of this movie is as subtle as the Hitler film the two school shooters are watching the day before they do their thing. The shooters are smart and sensitive - the leader even plays Beethoven on the piano and quotes Shakespeare as he starts his massacre.

8. I understand what Van Sant was trying to do with the shower kiss, but it came across as pandering and doesn’t really fit with the rest of the movie.

9. This movie could be shown to teenagers as a way to stop school violence. It makes shooting up a school seem so damn boring and pointless that kids will forget about their violent plans and go do something else.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [USA, 2014]

Nine Things about the Movie Sin City: A Dame to Kill For [USA, 2014]

1. In 2005, the original Sin City was released. It was a startling, ultra violent, hyper noir film based on the famous graphic novel. It was a masterpiece of atmosphere and style.

2.Nine years later, the sequel is released. Directed by the same two guys (Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller) this is more of the exact same thing. Same style, same atmosphere, and some of the same characters as the first film - even one character that’s dead.

3. As with the original, this movie features several separate stories that intertwine with each other. Characters float in and out of the various stories to kind of tie them all together and make it feel like one big terrible place. You can never be sure who will live and who will die.

4. Beneath the gorgeous visuals, the movie is a cynical, depressing look at a place where nobody is happy, everything is corrupt, and even if love isn't really just an act of betrayal, it's doomed anyway.

5. One of the stories takes place before the first film. One of them takes place after the first film. The other two stories don’t really give any clues as to when they take place.

6. You don’t technically have to see the first movie before this one, but it’s a good idea. There are numerous references to the events of the first film, and it won’t always be clear what’s going on if you haven’t seen it.

7. While there is plenty of violence in this movie, it doesn’t feel quite as brutal as the first one.

8. The strength of the movie is also its weakness. Filmed in black and white with splashes of color, it's a mixture of live action, computer animation, and comic-book-style illustration. It's gorgeous, but it’s the same stuff as in the first one. There are no new innovations in its style or technique, even though the filmmakers had nine years to think about it.

9. This movie moves a little more slowly than the first, and the stories aren’t quite as cool. But it’s still beautiful, violent, and one of the more original movies of this year. Fans of the first movie should still find plenty to love about this one.