Sunday, September 27, 2015

Black Mass (USA, 2014)

Nine Things About the Movie Black Mass

1. This movie depicts the bizarre true story of the infamous Boston mobster/FBI informant Whitey Bulger in the late 1970's, and how he manipulated everything and everybody around him to eliminate his mafia rivals and control most of Boston's organized crime.

2. This movie is unusual for an organized-crime film because there's not very much action. There are a few violent scenes, but the story revolves around more themes than just "kill my enemies and get more power".

3. The movie is actually about layers of loyalty, and what decisions people make when different layers overlap and conflict with each other.

4. The cast is great and the movie is well-acted, but there are quite a few interweaving stories, so even the great actors (like Benedict Cumberbatch) don't always get a lot of screen time.

5. Johnny Depp is pretty mesmerizing as Whitey Bulger. He almost vibrates with suppressed tension and rage in every scene, and you get the deep, uneasy feeling that no matter how calm Bulger is, whenever someone approaches him, they enter a minefield set by a psychopath.

6. There is a really interesting running commentary in the film about snitching. In Bulger's world, snitching is worthy of death, even if you're snitching on the enemy. And yet Bulger is OK with becoming an FBI informant because it serves his own agenda. So the movie is also about rationalizing your actions, even if technically you're a hypocrite.

7. It took me awhile to figure out why the title of the movie is "Black Mass", but it actually made sense when I thought about it after seeing the movie.

8. The movie is also a very illuminating perspective on corruption, and the old saying "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions." Good people do bad things, and bad people do good things, but these actions can have simultaneously different reasons and results, depending on which way you look at it - and who you're being loyal to at the time.

9. If you want another version of Goodfellas, this is not the movie you are looking for. And it's not the best crime drama ever made. But it is an intelligent and absorbing reflection on the issues and psychology that underlie the violent gangster news headlines.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Green Inferno (USA, 2015)

Nine Things About the Movie The Green Inferno

1. Horror director Eli Roth made this movie as a tribute to the cannibal genre of Italian horror films of the late 1970's and early 1980's.

2. By making this movie rated R, the movie gave up the ability to really go for the guts (so to speak), so it's weak sauce compared to the grindhouse classics that inspired it, like "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Cannibal Ferox" (those two films didn't even bother getting a rating, so their violently cruel scenes are still infamous and remarkable, even 40 years later).

3. This movie is about a group of annoying, over-privileged college students who take a trip to Peru to protest the destruction of the Amazon rainforest and the natives that live there. The plane crashes, and the students meet some natives that torture and eat them, I guess because Amazon natives hate all white people.

4. It seems like Roth knew that making a full-on cannibalistic massacre of white people would not be successful, so he tried to justify the violence by stapling it to the end of a different movie about saving the rainforest. This way, Roth is apparently trying to use the movie to make a satirical statement about social activism or the inescapable cruelty of the modern world. But all the activists are clueless morons manipulated by cynical masterminds, so the message is muddled, and none of it matters anyway once the cannibals show up.

5. The violence is fairly extreme for an American horror movie, but there's really not that much of it; the cannibals don't meet the students until the movie is half over. The movie is not scary at all. It's actually part comedy, in that Eli Roth way. This isn't always a good thing - the stoned cannibal scene is kind of gruesomely humorous, but it also completely takes away any sense of menace or dread the movie had built up.

6. There are some memorable lines in the movie, like "I can smell them cooking my friend!" and "It's good they ate Josh first. He should last them almost a week."

7. The script is not very smooth, and the movie seems like it had story lines cut out of it - there are scenes and characters that feel like they were supposed to be part of something bigger. That's the only explanation I have for the diarrhea scene.

8. The end of the movie doesn't make any sense except to set things up for a sequel. Or else it was Roth's way to deny charges that the movie is racist (I'll let you decide for yourself whether the movie is actually, or intentionally, racist).

9. This is dumb, gory fun, and if you didn't know that cannibal movies used to be a thing, you may be impressed. But it's also kind of boring. And if you're a fan of the original genre, this movie will be pretty tame. It might make you miss the old days when filmmakers didn't care about political correctness or getting the highest box office.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Creep (USA, 2014)

Nine Things About the Movie Creep

1. This is a found-footage horror film. People have been making found-footage horror films for almost 40 years, but for some reason film-makers still think they work.

2. This is not only one of the worst found-footage horror films I've ever seen, it's one of the worst movies I've ever seen. It's not even "so bad it's good". It's just a piece of crap.

3. It's about a guy named Aaron that answers a Craigslist ad to go film a guy named Josef for 8 hours. Josef says he's dying of cancer and wants to make a movie for his unborn son (in the only honest moment of the movie, they at least admit they're copying the Michael Keaton film My Life).

4. From Josef's very first scene, you know he's the title of the movie. There are absolutely no surprises (or scares) in the whole thing. There are a few lame attempts at jump scares, but I didn't realize I was supposed to jump until after it was over.

5. It was written by two guys named Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice. It stars Mark Duplass and Patrick Brice. It was directed by Patrick Brice. I never want to see a movie with either one of them ever again.

6.  The movie was originally going to be called Peachfuzz, but they changed it because they didn't want to confuse the audience. If you are one of the unfortunate people that saw this movie, you will understand why it was going to be called that. Personally, I think Peachfuzz is a better title because it gives a better idea of how stupid the movie is.

7. Any adult that calls feet "tootsies" and taking a bath "tubby time" is automatically not my friend. Neither is anyone that can be knocked unconscious with a little bit of Benadryl in their whiskey. Neither is anyone that carries their camera everywhere except to where they're going to be killed.

8.  My friend and I had a fun time adding our own dialogue to the movie, and laughing when the characters actually said it.

9. OK, I'll be honest - I guess if you've never seen a horror movie before, this might be a little scary. But if you have seen any horror movie in your life, then just do yourself a favor and go do laundry instead. Nothing serious or threatening or creepy ever occurs. The only thing that really happens here is that you waste 80 minutes of your life.