Friday, 4 January 2013

John Dies At The End (2013)

Every so often a movie comes along that feels like magic.  In the entire universe of movies, where a lot of films are stars shining brightly in the sky, that one comes along that's a shooting star that makes all your wishes come true.  Something so original and amazing that it makes you so happy to be a genre film fan.  John Dies At The End is one of those movies.  Don Coscarelli has a habit of producing shooting stars actually.  This has been made out of love more than anything else.  It's so wonderfully weird and surreal as well as being funny and unhinged.  A bonafide classic in the making.  A combination of slacker comedy, off beat horror and surreal outlandish weirdness, it's unlike no other movie in recent years, with geeky nods to genre movies and the use of practical effects, it's pretty much a guaranteed wet dream for the audience it's intended for.  Bare in mind this is a film made for genre geeks by a genre geek with a cast who appear to be having a blast (including Paul Giamatti).  It's great to see everyone having so much fun, but also acting with a passion and the intention to make something truly wonder.

The story revolves around 2 slackers, David and John, particularly David.  It deals with the effects of a drug called ''soy sauce'' that not only gives its users heightened senses and psychic abilities, but it also allows them to travel dimensions.  However, when the doors to these dimensions are opened it means things can come into our world.  It turns into a hallucinogenic, surreal, hilarious nightmarish mind warp as Dave and John try to save the world from nasty creatures.

The creatures in this movie are fantastic and original (a meat monster for instance).  It's very old school but with it being a breath of fresh air.  Coscarelli films have always made great use of set-ups and looked rather awesome despite always being low budget.  He's a very talented director that won't ever get the credit he deserves beyond his loyal fan base.  The gore is well done albeit very cheesy looking but it's not supposed to be serious and it adds to the films charm.  All of the actors as I said are fantastic.  Perfect casting choices and a nice cameo from the Tall Man, Angus Schrimm.

This had the same effect that seeing movies like Evil Dead, Braindead, Bubba Ho-Tep, Idle Hands and other surreal, off beat masterpieces had the first time I watched them.  Most of those directors have went on to do blockbusters now and probably won't ever return to their roots (not that I don't like their blockbusters).  It's just nice to see Coscarelli still around to produce the magic.  Cinema is a magical thing, but Coscarelli is a more masterful wizard than most.

Happiness (1998)

Todd Solondz, you beautiful man.  I have a feeling you're going to become one of my favorite filmmakers.  One of my favorite genres is dark comedy.  In fact, it might be my favorite.  Todd Solondz' 1998 masterpiece, Happiness is black comedy at is finest and to some, its most disturbing.  It revolves around the lives of many people trying to find happiness, but some of the things that make them happy aren't exactly accepted within the norms of society.  We have a pedophile father who has daydreams about a killing spree in a park, but he is a good father, who gives his son all the advice he needs on masturbation.  Then there's the stalker who makes threatening phone calls to women to get himself off.  Or how about the woman who's in love with him who breaks into homes just to cuddle but hates sex?  Did I mention she was raped, murdered her attacker, cut him up and left him in the freezer?  We don't see a lot of this stuff happen, but we're very well informed that it did.

Happiness is centered around the lives of 3 sisters who live in different worlds.  There's Joy, a lonely songwriter who's unlucky in love and in luck.  She tries to do good but only bad things happen to her.  Helen is a successful writer with an obsessive neighbor who makes violently graphic phone calls.  When he can't live up to his threats, Helen is disappointed.  Lastly, we have Trish.  On paper she has the perfect life; a family, a successful husband, carpool, etc. However, she doesn't have the creativity her sisters have.  Her husband also happens to have some uncontrollable urges.  The sisters parents are also on the verge of separation.  Not exactly the Brady Bunch, eh?

I don't know if Happiness is supposed to be a satire on American family life, but it certainly is effective.  Each character is searching for happiness but only end up with disappointment.  It's a daring movie that really makes us think.  We get to know each character so well and genuinely want them to find happiness, but then again, how can you root for a deranged neurotic telephone pervert or a pedophile who has openly sexual conversations with his son?  Damn, it's funny though.  At the end of the movie when little Billy says, ''I came'' you'll laugh, but you'll also cheer for the little guy because, in a way, it's a happy ending (no pun intended lol).  You see, ''cumming'' was all he wanted to do the entire movie so at least one of them found ''happiness.''

Disturbing content?  You betcha.  However, it's all presented in a humorous way that you'll be laughing with ease.  We shouldn't laugh at these people but we do.  We even kinda like them, and some of them we definitely shouldn't.  I really recommend this.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Pink Flamingos (1972)


... And intentionally so.

If there's ever a movie that just wants to piss everybody off then it's this piece of garbage.  I don't think I've ever watched anything this repulsive.  It's not just the acts portrayed that are disgusting, but the characters and the actors/actresses playing them are genuinely horrible human beings.  This movie has it all; cannibalism, chicken sex, incest, on screen fellatio, poop eating, chained up women forced to give birth so their offspring can be sold to lesbians, streaking, more poo, a handcapped grandmother who eats eggs in her crib, murder, rape... You get the picture.  But it's all conducted in the silliest manner possible.  This is definitely in your face, balls to the wall, filth for the sake of being filthy and it laughs at us as we watch.  I don't know what else to say.  I enjoyed it but it's terrible.  Many claim it's a masterpiece.  It's certainly original.  It's an ''exercise in bad taste'' and it does it job successfully.  I won't ever watch it again but I need to applaud John Waters ''fuck you'' attitude.

Excision (2012)

Richard Bates Jr is one of those directors that comes along every so often and blows you out of the water.  He may only be one full feature into his career, but it's definitely one to get excited over.  Excision is a modern masterpiece and I mean that.  This movie is just so unique; it's a horror comedy at heart that manages to be funny, disturbing and gross, while also being heartwarming, sentimental and on some levels, identifiable.  In high school, everyone knew a girl like Pauline (a much less exaggerated version, of course).  By that I mean, we all knew a weird kid who got picked on.  I remember a girl at my school who had a horrid time and Pauline reminded me of her.  This movie has so many dimensions.  It's a story about social outcast who's alienated from her peers, her troubled family (especially her mother), her church and her teachers.  It deals with the awkwardness of sexuality as a teenager and the coming of age into adulthood.  These are the core themes of the movie but Richard Bates has thrown in some body horror, deranged dream sequences and lots of uneasy moments to make this one of the best horror movies to come out... ever.  It's also one of the best dramas, comedies and character studies in recent history.  Maybe it's too soon to call it one of the best horrors of all time, but it's certainly one of the best that's came about in my lifetime.

I mean it.  This is a guaranteed cult classic and it's going to split opinions.  So far reviews have been very polarising, but with a movie with this much experimentation it's bound to happen.  Fortunately though, the experiments pay off.  In fact, they come together seamlessly.  Imagine if John Hughes and David Cronenberg in the 80's made a movie.  Throw in some David Lynch, Todd Solondz and Alejandro Jodorowsky and you have an idea and it mixes together with ease.  I really can't praise this enough.  I laughed, I cringed, I related on an emotional level and at times I felt genuinely disturbed.

There's a few recognisable faces on board, in particular genre favourites such as John Waters, Ray Wise and Malcolm Mcdowell.  We also have that dude from Desperate Housewives who was also in Hostel.  The stars of the show are Traci Lords and even more so, Annalynne McCord, who not only escapes her 'Naomi from 90210' image, but she makes Pauline her own.  This was a demanding role and she sells it more than convincingly.  If movies like this won Oscars then she'd be shoe in.  Richard Bates' imagery is very macabre and at times, dream like.  Despite its depravity at times, it's rather beautiful to watch.

Overall, a masterpiece but see it for yourself and decide.  It's an opinion divider for sure.  I found it to be sick, twisted, yet tender and emotional fun.  At it's heart, it's a teenage/family angst story turned up to extreme volumes.

The Baytown Outlaws (2012)

Ever since the classic Grindhouse collaboration between Tarantino and Rodriguez in 2007, we've seen a number of grindhouse style movies follow.  Most of them have their tongues placed firmly in their cheek in loving homage to exploitation films of yesteryear, but I think they're all a breath of fresh air and a nice little new wave of grindhouse cinema is happening before our eyes.  There's been a few little gems since 2007 and Baytown Outlaws is the latest.  It wears it's Tarantino on its sleeve (perhaps unintentional but the director admits True Romance was one of his main inspirations when writing this) and proudly so.  Barry Battles has went out with the intention of making a ''Southern whip-ass extravaganza'' and he's duly delivered.  It's lighthearted black comedy (if that makes sense) at its finest, full of laughs, action and blood.  There's hot chicks on motorcycles, Eva Longoria in daisy dukes and Billy Bob Thornton being a sleaze.  What's not to love right there?  What makes this movie though is our ''heroes'' the Oodie brothers, 3 redneck guns for hire.

The 3 brothers are hired by Eva Longoria's character to get her godson back from her gangster ex-husband, played by Bill Bob. It also so happens that her godson is in a wheelchair.  After failing to kill Thornton's character, he sends out assassins to track down the brothers and kill them.  It's a simple story; the great American action road movie through the South with killers in pursuit, including the insatiable Zoe Bell and her murdering biker gang of prostitutes.  Throw in some Clutch and Skynyrd, guns and army vehicles and you have quite the romp.

There's already a shootout by the time the opening credits get rolling and it sets the tone for what's to follow.  This is action packed to the max and it doesn't disappoint.  The banter between the brothers is hilarious and really endears them to the audience and gets us rooting for them.  It almost makes you forget that they too are ruthless killers.  Their relationship with the kid they need to recover gives the movie some sweet charm, but overall, it's just a free for all with no morally redeeming characters whatsoever.  This is a fun 90 minutes indeed if you like these kind of films.  I love them.  Think Smokey and the Bandit meets True Romance.  Or as another reviewer suggested, Tarnatino directing Dukes of Hazzard.