I know it is a bold statement, especially since Sucker Punch just opened to a mounting pile of disastrous reviews. But, if I was the one with the power of Greyskull in Hollywood, then my choice for director of The Hunger Games would be my boy, Zack Snyder. With films like Watchmen, 300, and the remake of Dawn of the Dead under his belt, Snyder is known for his fanboy glee for ultra-violence and epically beautiful visuals, and he is currently attached to the next big budget Superman film, Man of Steel.
If you haven’t heard of The Hunger Games yet, (which would be hard on this website given that the FBC staff considers the book series the literary equivalent of crystal meth) it is the first book in a trilogy of intensely popular young adult novels involving a Battle Royale-esque plot set in a dystopian future where twelve districts exist under the rule of a tyrannical Capitol. As punishment for a prior rebellion against The Capitol by the districts, each year two children, one boy and one girl, are selected from each district and forced to participate in “The Hunger Games,” a fight to the death that is broadcast on live television. While the book series has a rabid following and has already been heralded in Hollywood as the next Harry Potter or Twilight-type phenomenon, this comparison falls short of representing what author Suzanne Collins has actually created. While The Hunger Games does have elements of the epic battle between good and evil from the Potter films and contains a romance plot that will easily rival the Twilight franchise, it excels beyond both by telling a complicated, honest, and brutal story that deftly explores themes of society’s obsession with violence and death, the true nature of war, and the complexity of evil. This is not to say that these other series do not touch on these themes, but somehow Collins seems to do it with a master writer’s grace, never missing a beat and never condescending to her audience. In short, she never lets The Hunger Games feel like a young adult novel.
I was lucky to attend the Sundance premiere of Kevin Smith’s highly anticipated horror flick Red State, starring up-and-coming actors Michael Angarano, Kyle Gallner, and Nicholas Braun, as well as established actors Michael Parks (Then Came Bronson, Twin Peaks, Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2, Grindhouse), Oscar-winner Melissa Leo, and John Goodman. When I arrived at Eccles Theater in Park City, Utah, I was greeted by a huge line and a mix of protesters: half, serious religious picketers, half, ironical picketers, which included Kevin Smith himself, as well as a teen with my favorite sign that read: God Hates That I Couldn’t Get Tickets To Red State. The film centers on a trio of high school youngsters (Angarano, Gallner, and Braun) who, out of a combination of sheer boredom and raging hormones, respond to a woman’s internet sex ad in the hopes of having an ill-planned, and ill-fated, gangbang. Smith leaves his signature mark on this film with witty banter, unapologetic plot twists, and overt social critique, but his own style ultimately ends up hurting the film. Watching Red State was a hard-to-swallow experience, as there is as much good as there are short comings, and I was left with the frustrating—and not uncommon—sentiment that hidden somewhere in this film was the potential for greatness.
Emmanuel Carrere directs this adaptation of his own novel, La Moustache, creating one of the most odd, funny, and disturbing films I have ever seen. My brother recommended the film to me (thanks, Ben!) and suggested that I simply watch it and not read anything about it, including the Netflix synopsis paragraph. I did and I really enjoyed the movie. In this review I hope to talk to you a little about the movie without actually describing what it’s about. I will most likely fail, but it’s like Abe Lincoln said, “Does this beard make me look fat?”
La Moustache, starring Vincent London and the beautiful Emmanuelle Devos, is tangentially, an exploration of a modern, settled-but-not-stale relationship, and, more directly, it is the story of Marc (London) losing his grasp on reality. His unraveling begins in a bath tub as he decides on a whim to shave the mustache he has worn for the past 15 years (see how I’m failing already). From there we are plunged into an ocean of disturbing reveals and confounding twists for both Marc and the audience alike. London’s acting is subtle yet powerful as he negotiates the relationship drama and the psychological torment in a completely natural and understated manner.
I had the good fortune to attend the premiere of Robert Rodriguez’s new grindhouse flick, Machete, starring ex-con and Rodriguez staple Mr. Danny Trejo at the Orpheum Theater in downtown LA. Let me tell you, it was amazing. Outside the theater was a parking lot housing dozens of low riders and choppers (complete with custom paint jobs and hydraulics) which ferried the cast to the red carpet. Almost every major cast member attended and took the stage before the film screened. Robert Rodriguez gave us a brief introduction before retiring to a balcony-level opera booth to watch the film with friend and fellow filmmaker Quentin Tarantino. The movie itself is filthy and funny and chock full action, nudity, and gore. And, with an eclectic cast of amazing actors playing their over-the-top lines with absolute seriousness, this modernized exploitation film will have you laughing and shouting for more. I definitely recommend seeing this one on the big screen!
Buried, written by Chris Sparling and directed/edited by Rodrigo Cortez, was an ambitious and amazing concept of a film. It follows Paul Conroy (Ryan Reynolds), an American truck driver working for a private company in Iraq, who was buried alive in a coffin-sized box. We start the film in the box with Conroy, and we never leave it for the duration of the film. He initially finds a lighter and an Iraqi cell phone, which provide most of the light for the film, as well as advancing the plot as Conroy receives calls from his kidnappers and dials various people back in America, including his wife, 911 operators, and the company for which he works. As he frantically tries to get someone who can help him, he is repeatedly confronted with answering machines, unfriendly officials, and muzak (as he is put on hold), from which we enjoy some of the only humor in the film. So, although we hear other actors talk to Conroy over the phone, Reynolds commands the screen the entire time. It sounded to me like an amazing concept and an incredibly risky endeavor; sadly, it failed.
Greetings to you, noble internet surfer. It is your humble correspondent heretofore known as YHC. YHC has not taken the time out of his busy schedule of watching others polish his ivory tower in order to traipse into a plebian “movieplex,” so YHC would like to take the time to diffuse this seemingly glaring obstacle regarding the ability of his effectively reviewing Boondock Saints II: All Saints’ Day.
Black Swan doesn’t really need my help. It’s a film that has been flooded with gushing reviews, is nominated for a number of Academy Awards, and has a brilliant, visionary director at the helm. Still, in a culture full of overhyped and prepackaged Oscar films, Black Swan deserves to be recognized for the stand out original that it is! Below, I outline my reasons for why this film deserves the best picture award and why it should be considered a herald of glorious things to come by every proud, comic-sniffing geek out there!
Hello, my dozen of fans. It is I, your jovial misanthrope, Paul Pakler. I am going to briefly explain why I review movies (without having seen them).
1: I live in New York City, where ticket prices harbor around $12 a pop.
2: Most movies are f@#%tarded.
3: If you still don’t understand, reread Reason Number Two (and replace “Most movies” with “You”).
So, without further (Midsummer Night’s) ado, let’s review some s@#$%y movies!
Audition opens with the lead, Shigeharu Aoyama (Ryo Ishibashi), watching his wife pass away in her hospital bed, and it just gets worse from there. Admittedly, the first hour of the nearly two hour film isn’t terribly disturbing. The inciting incident occurs when Aoyama confides his longing for a partner to his friend; the friend agrees to set up a fake audition, the pretense being that they are looking for a lead actress for a movie, but in reality it is designed so that Aoyama can have statistics and backgrounds on many different women and ultimately take his choosing. The two men enjoy the experience of the numerous desperate women parading in front of them, and when Aoyama finally settles on one, things start to look very bad for him. Very bad, indeed. He eagerly begins his pursuit of Asami Yamazaki (Eihi Shiina), a beautiful former ballet dancer who strikes him as both emotionally experienced and wounded, yet optimistic. The audience begins to get little flashes of this young woman’s hidden life, which involves a human-sized burlap sack that contains something living, and several forms of manipulation. Also, the friend character begins to check her references, none of whom can be reached, and warns Aoyama to slow down. Aoyama, blinded by love, fails to heed this advice and continues down a disturbing path of psychological and mental torment at the hands of his “prize,” leading him to a harrowing conclusion. Aoyama says of Yamakazi’s abusive past, “It’s hard to forget about... but someday you’ll feel.. that life is wonderful.” These are the closing words to Takashi Miike’s 1999 gag-inducing film Audition, and I would apply them to the movie, as well.
(I apologize if this review becomes more and more angry or aggressive; my mouse keeps freezing on me. I unplug it and then plug it back in and it works again. For another ten minutes. Rinse. Repeat)
Another quality direct-to-DVD animated film from DC, All-Star Superman, is based on the twelve issue comic series of the same name by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely. Designed to be a self-contained Superman story, the comic follows a dying Superman and neither affects nor is restricted by the DC universe continuity. In this sense the story and characters are comfortingly familiar, yet with exciting new stakes. The recently deceased Dwayne McDuffie wrote the film script based on the comic. It was directed by Sam Liu and boasts an excellent voice cast including James Denton as Superman, Anthony LaPaglia as The Double L, and the incredibly cool Christina Hendricks as . . . uh... The Other Double L, Lois Lane. [Editor’s note: Sam is fired from the company and should be fired from life as well.] It has a few problems, most notably the fact the the film feels less like a coherent story and more like a compiled group of distinct episodes chronicling Superman’s last days. To say nothing of the comic (I haven’t yet read it), the film version of All-Star Superman is a solid offering with thrilling new adventures and twists with an old familiar cast of characters.