Thursday, March 10, 2016

What I Watched in February

I got to see a lot of movies in the theater in February so I'll keep this brief. First up was the latest Coen Brothers comedy HAIL, CEASAR and I found its recreation of 1950's Hollywood to be charming and amusing. It seems to be crafting a vision of the past that pretends that the movies of the time actually reflected reality and I find that entertaining on its own. Adding to that is a group of slightly off-center characters (in a Coen film!) who all have their own selfish agendas as they negotiate a kidnapping, a pregnancy, a life changing job offer and a host of other problems. I loved this wonderful film even as I must acknowledge that it might be something only a old movie fan could completely embrace. I've read other people complaining about it with my favorite criticism being that it's a story about a kidnapping that has no tension. This made me laugh out loud! This just ain't that kind of movie, friend! The kidnapping plot is just there to hang all the other subplots from and to give a near perfect capper to a nice character turn by Josh Brolin. Of course, the entire cast is fantastic wringing every bit of juice out of the script's ridiculous shenanigans. This is a joyful and grin-inducing movie that makes me love the Coen's more every time I am reminded of a dozen or more little moments. Damn! I want to see it again!   

Next I caught the horror film THE BOY starring Lauren Cohen from the cast of The Walking Dead and Rupert Evens who has recently impressed me on Amazon's Man In The High Castle series. The story involves American Cohen taking an au pair job in England for an elderly couple going away on holiday. Her duties revolve around caring for their young son who - in a disturbing twist - turns out to be a three foot tall doll of a boy instead of the real thing. At first incredulous she finally accepts the position after a down to earth talk with the husband of the house who explains that the doll was a way of coping with their child's death many years before. If she will just go along, abide by the strict rules they set out then all will go well and she will be well paid. She agrees and after the couple depart we learn that the reason Cohen's character is so far from home concerns an abusive ex-boyfriend who is unaware of her new location. Soon after disregarding the carefully structured rules she begins to hear and see things in the large house that lead her to suspect the doll may be supernaturally possessed or at least the focus of ghostly attention. She convinces Evens' local businessman character that something strange is going on just about the time her ex finds his way to England and things in the house escalate. THE BOY is a well done chiller that navigates its few twists very well. It's not a great horror movie but it is a reasonably effective one.

I've already written a good bit about THE WITCH but I have to admit that it's odd to me that so many horror fans dislike the film. Their protestations of 'It's not really a horror movie' sound a whole lot like the flip side of the old 'serious' filmmaker's dodge of 'It's not a horror film- it's a supernatural thriller'. Bullshit on both rations of this crap. THE WITCH is a horror movie and so all the bitching needs to cease. If you didn't like it that's fine but it's still a horror film even nothing blows up or gets carved into pieces. I'm pissed that I have to explain this.

DEADPOOL was just as funny and exciting as you have heard. I enjoyed the hell out of it and look forward to a sequel even if I have never read a single comic book with Cable. Kudos for the fine post credit Ferris Bueller riff.

And finally I saw THE FOREST at the second run theater which was about right. It's not a bad little ghost tale about a lost twin sister in the infamous suicide forest in Japan but it's nothing very special either. It's well acted and the pacing is strong with the fine location work in the shadow of Mt. Fuji adding very much to the creepy vibe. I enjoyed it but I doubt I'll ever go out of my way to see it again.

The List 

THE BLACK BOOK (1949)- 8 (excellent Anthony Mann, Menzies produced tale of Robespierre)
HAIL, CAESAR (2016) - 9  
BURN AFTER READING (2008)- 8 (rewatch)
THE BOY (2016)- 7 (sharply done horror story)
BREEDERS (1986) - 3 (nudity filled alien monster mess)
SOLARBABIES (1986) - 1 (horrible on every level - and boring!)
THE PHANTOM LADY (1944)- 8 (excellent noir with horror overtones)
THE VISIT (2015) - 7 (solid found footage horror)
EX MACHINA (2015) - 7 (rewatch) (I liked it more the second time but it's still a detached, distant experience)
THE BIG SHORT (2015) - 9
THE WITCH (2015) - 8
FURY (2014) - 8 (WWII tank tale)
ELECTRIC BOOGALOO: The Wild Untold Story of Cannon Films (2014) - 9
HELLIONS (2015) - 6 (not bad but the story is too stretched out for feature length  running time)
GHOSTHOUSE (1988) - 3 (bad haunted house film from Filmirage)
CHINGACHGOOK: THE GREAT SNAKE (1967) - 6 (solid German western from James Fenimore Cooper's The Deerslayer)
DEADPOOL (2016)- 8 (very fun!)
PHANTOM SHIP (1935) - 6 (interesting version of the Mary Celeste story with Lugosi)
RAMPAGE AT APACHE WELLS (1965)- 6 (German western better known as The Oil Prince)
THE FOREST (2016)- 6
EL VAMPIRE Y EL SEXO (1969) - 5 (nude version of Santo film The Treasure of Dracula)
VALLEY OF THE DRAGONS (1961) - 4 (terrible but fun Jules Verne adaptation) (rewatch)
SWORDSMAN OF SIENA (1962) - 8 (Italian made Stewart Granger swashbuckler)


Nick Rentz said...

I think I tried watching Solarbabies on Comet, but I changed the channel. There was something about Electric Boogaloo that put me off.

Steven Millan said...

The fanboys that hate THE WITCH just don't get it,for had this dark and brutal film been directed by Rob Zombie or had Ryan Reynolds in his Deadpool gear they'd be all over it like flies,otherwise THE WITCH is pretty much our gain(as well as one of 2016's best films).

Brian Lindsey said...

Glad to see you liked FURY, Rod -- easily the best WWII film since SAVING PRIVATE RYAN.

I was surprised that so many people pissed on this movie yet loved the inferior AMERICAN SNIPER... Apparently they didn't like its "morally ambiguous" take on U.S. soldiers fighting what was supposedly the "Good War". (In reality, one doesn't have to dig very deep to find numerous cases of American troops not exactly behaving like paragons of chivalry in the ETO.)

Morality aside, the suspense-filled duel with that lone Tiger tank is fantastic. (The "Fury" crew were very lucky!)

Rod Barnett said...

Nick - I'd give Electric Boogaloo another chance. I can understand the feeling that the two guys behind Cannon's rise we not always likable but the story of their company is worth seeing. More maybe you didn't like the style of the doc?

Steven - Yeah, any time a horror film is hyped the fanboys gotta whine. And anytime a horror film is slow the fanboys gotta whine. And anytime a horror film is thoughtful fanboys gotta whine. I sense a pattern here.

Brian - FURY was very well done and I loved how it was a modern, more reality based take on the classic WWII films of yesteryear. The only problems I had with it involve the moments when it is too 'Hollywood' for its own good. Those moments would be the sudden shelling that kills the young girl and then leaves her body easily viewable in the rubble and the mercy shown by the German soldier to the tank survivor. Those seem like missteps.

Brian Lindsey said...

I agree with you about the missteps in FURY. (I, too, would give it an "8" rating.)

Here's another nit-pick: The final battle.

It's very well done, but I couldn't help but think that if only the SS troops had a few hand-held "panzerfaut" anti-tank rockets, the fight would have been very short indeed -- with the American tankers quickly turned into crispy critters.

Thing is, there's a brief sequence before the battle showing the SS guys marching towards the crossroads... and some of them are carrying panzerfausts. But when it comes time for the fight, those weapons are nowhere to be seen.

Still, a first-rate film.