Sunday, December 30, 2012
Brad's Week in Dork! (12/23/12-12/29/12)
Here it is. The last "real" week of 2012. Amidst all the Ho-Ho-Ho and Jingle Bells was the last ditch effort to capture New Movies into my brain; it was a mad dash to consume in an attempt to make my upcoming Dorkies as complete as they possibly can be. Thanks to On Demand & Netflix Instant, I was able to see a lot of those flicks I missed earlier in the year...none really knocked my socks off though. Frankly, nothing could excite me once I saw Django Unchained. QT's latest floored me. And I cannot tell you how happy I am to end the year with one of its very best films. A much more thrilling experience than last year's so-so War Horse.
I am so happy to have the Holidays behind me - the retail madness has pretty much come to a close. And The Wife & I had a wonderful Christmas with both our families. As usual, she won the gift giving battle by supplying me with James Bond's favorite Scotch, a Black & White Darwyn Cooke Batman, and some crazy looking Terminator knock-off legos. I am so lucky to have found a woman who not only understands my boyhood fantasies, but is my greatest enabler.
Killer Joe: "Do You Want Me To Wear Your Face?" Yikes. Matthew McConaughey channels his Texas Chainsaw Massacre persona and delivers one of this year's most delightfully unsettling performances. That being said, I didn't really like this movie. Sure, it's got the greatest use of Fried Chicken you'll ever encounter in cinema and all the other actors do a fine job at portraying their despicable characters, but the narrative never excites since you can pretty much guess where this kidnapping plot unravels...that is until the drumstick emerges. I want more manic McConaughey in my life. If Tom Cruise delivers wonderfully unnatural intensity, McConaughey is the master of handsome insanity. He radiates madness like no other - the aforementioned Texas Chainsaw Massacre 4, Reign of Fire, Surfer Dude, Frailty. He's perfectly fine as the good boy scout, but when he's chewing around a psycho killer? That's entertainment. I just wish the rest of the film was more interesting than its fishbowl leering on poor white trash. And Gina Gershon, just keep your pants on.
Die Hard: If you were to push my face into the ground, twist my arm around my back, and force me to name my All-Time Favorite Straight-Up Action Film I would have to cry Die Hard. Like the best action films of the 80s, it's wonderfully simple. A New York Cop trapped in a building with a dozen money hungry terrorists. There's enough emotion at stake thanks to the cop's troubled marriage, and the death of a few key innocents but for the most part it's just an excuse for Bruce Willis to machine gun his way through various squibby set pieces. And those squibs? Have there ever been better bags of popping fake blood? Don't think so. Alan Rickman's diabolical Hans Gruber is as dashing as he is scary, and his final drop from the heavens is so completely satisfying. To top it all off, it's a Christmas Movie! There is no better film to watch when you decorate your tree on Christmas Eve - that's exactly what The Wife & I did.
Inglourious Basterds: "We Will Be Cruel To The German!" One of the most satisfying climaxes in movies. Watch a film like Schindler's List or Sophie's Choice, get your brain really dark and depressed and then immediately follow it up with The Basterds. You will hoot and holler with bloody enthusiasm as Brad Pitt and the rest of his Apache Warriors exact their gleeful vengeance on various Nazi scum. But this is not just a World War Kill Bill. It's still littered with dazzling film references and that now typical mashup score, but there's no distraction in its execution. It's another feast of Tarantino dialog; the language here is dangerous and often scariest aspect of the film. The opening scene between Christophe Waltz's Jew Hunter and the poor French farmer is some of the most suspenseful cinema this side of Hitchcock. In fact every scene with Waltz is horrifying, no matter how wide his smile or extreme his gesticulating. But as hard as he tries to steal this film, Inglourious Basterds is really Melanie Laurent's movie. And as fun as it is to see Brad Pitt's dirty dozen scalp their prey, the real satisfaction comes from Shosana's fiery retribution. I genuinely find Basterds to be a cathartic movie watching experience; having been force fed the horrors of history all my life, it feels incredibly good to give myself to Quentin Tarantino's rulebook.
Django Unchained: Want to get nuts? Lets get nuts. Django Unchained may very well be my favorite Quentin Tarantino film. That seems extreme, I know. I'm not totally sure I believe it just yet. I know I have a predisposition towards Westerns (or Southerns as the case may be here), but I don't think this is another case of being blinded by Appaloosa. This is genuine love. Fanboyish, sure. My reaction to Jamie Foxx's final moments in this film were rather similar to The Hulk's declaration of "I'm Always Angry" - pure, unadulterated joy. Django Unchained feels like an emotional sequel to Inglourious Bastereds. But where as the cathartic vengeance release in Basterds relies mostly on your predetermined hatred for Nazis, Django Unchained explicitly depicts the horrors of slavery. There are moments in this film that are tough to watch - some of them release awkward reactionary laughter, some honest Blazing Saddles comedy. But that's what QT specializes in, he runs the gamut of emotions and couches them in genre. This is exploitation at its very best. Jaime Foxx's Django lives in the nightmare landscape of Sergio Corbucci, but the script offers him a fairy tale hero's quest and in rescuing his bride from the clutches of Leonardo Dicaprio's plantation monster Foxx succeeds where Kunta Kinte failed. There is no high road here. We want the low road. We want Django to whip these hateful beasts to death. We want the horrors of slavery to be vanquished through blood. It's a fantasy. And in my fantasies I want violent triumph. If you've cheered with Jim Brown's Slaughter than you know exactly what I mean. If you haven't, if you want the history lesson...stick with Roots. But Inglourious Basterds & Django Unchained are a blast of operatic rage against racism and they both offer a pleasure not often experienced in contemporary cinema. It's a base need, maybe you don't need it or want it, but I most certainly do. And the fact that you can also play QT's Where's Waldo game of Spaghetti Western references and Hong Kong snap zooms, that's just icing on the cake.
John Dies At The End: "That dog just saved the universe." I really, really, really wanted to enjoy this movie. Don Coscarelli's Phantasm films are staples of Halloween, and his adaptation of Bubba Ho-Tep is much better than I ever thought possible. The trailers for John Dies At The End promise all sorts of weirdo monsters and violent hijinks, but as I found myself drifting away from the movie I couldn't help but think of this science fiction as a wannabe teenage version of Cronenberg's Naked Lunch. It seems to be trying really hard, but from nearly the very first shot we're never given a moments rest from the main character's insanity...or whatever. It's a whole lot of kooky, but kooky a movie does not make.
Universal Soldier - Day of Reckoning: "That's the spirit soldier!" I probably enjoyed this much more than I should have, but I couldn't help but fall victim to its bloody beatdown charms. I would love to tell you that this is Jean Claude & Dolph Lundgren's movie, but like the previous Universal Soldier flicks this franchise now belongs to Scott Adkins. But ya know what? He's seriously badass in this film. He has a showcase fight sequence set in a sporting shop that rivals Gina Carano's Fassbender whoopin found earlier this year in Haywire - the man knows how to crack a skull with a baseball bat. And when it's time to go Versus against JCVD & Lundgren, the man holds his own against these aging monsters of action. Their final showdown easily excites more than any phony baloney CG shoot 'em up found in either of the Expendable films. Machetes and blood. That's what this action audience wants.
Beasts of the Southern Wild: It's this year's indie darling, and it totally won me over. Set in this surreal, post-apocalyptic(Katrina?) island called The Bathtub, a young girl and her father fight to survive the challenges of their environment. As the wild child Hushpuppy, Quevenzhane Wallis is a natural force of childlike wonder; she offers the type of performance impossible to find beyond the age of reason. But as much as I was captivated by her astonishing abilities, I was equally enraptured by Dwight Henry's Wink. He's the proud papa - not so much of his child (although that's there too...eventually), but of the world he inhabits and the four alarm fire he once bedded. There is a fiery heart to be found in his contempt for the world outside The Bathtub; he doesn't understand that world and he doesn't want it to understand him. This is not so much a coming-of-age story as a passing-the-torch story. Wink lays out the spread, the buffet of the universe for young Hushpuppy to feast upon. It's up to her to crack into the crab and Beast It!
FDR - American Badass: Oh boy, oh boy. This movie is just wrong. But wonderfully so. Unlike the tepid comedy failure of Iron Sky (see last WEEK IN DORK), FDR succeeds in never shaking from its horrendous buffoonery and outright assault on historical - no, scratch that - human decency. As you watch Barry Bostwick scream his Presidential victory howls while dousing a gallon of milk upon his chest you'll be awestruck by the producer's ability to snag these actors for this beautiful cinematic atrocity. Ray Wise, Bruce McGill, Kevin Sorbo, Lin Shaye, William Mapother? I know you guys will work for a sandwich, but how'd you get here? But ya know what? They all go for it! They've bought in to this ridiculous charade, and they scream their lines with pure trash movie conviction! JELLYBEANS!!!!!!!!!!
Cosmopolis: David Cronenberg meet Robert Pattinson...wait, what? That was my initial reaction upon hearing the news of this oddball partnership. The Twilight Kid riding around in a Cronenberg limousine driven by novelist Don Delillo? After a few minutes thought that sounded like a wonderfully mad idea worth backing - and those early trailers made Cosmopolis out to be his new Naked Lunch. But, unfortunately, the film is much more pedestrian than desired. Another asshole protagonist raping the world around him. Sigh. But I think I just have to let go of the old David Cronenberg. If I'm looking for new incarnations of The Brood than I should just watch Beyond The Black Rainbow again, cuz the Canadian Cinefiend is firmly established in the run-of-the-mill human monsters these days. Cosmopolis is a nasty little hit at Capitalism, a touch obvious, but the bumps in the road are watchable. But I can't get freakout crazy for this flick.
Deadfall: A somewhat solid wannabe Elmore Leonard crime tale. Siblings Eric Bana & Olivia Wilde are on the run from the law in the winter wasteland of the Canadian border. There's a bundle of stolen cash, a dead police officer, and a potentially incestuous relationship. In stumbles Sons of Anarchy star Charlie Hunnam, a convict boxer looking to fall in love through a pair of Olivia Wilde's panties. There might have been an interesting relationship between the three leads if not distracted by wasted B plots involving Kate Mara's policedaddy issues and Kris Kristofferson disapproving Thanksgiving dinner. More treachery & violence and less furrowed brow melodrama.