Tuesday, July 12, 2016

What I Watched in June

Last month events conspired to keep me out of the theaters - movies I don't care to see, bladder infections, etc. - so I only got out to see one offering. 

Having enjoyed the two previous films I have seen directed by director Nicholas Winding-Refn I was excited to see his latest 'controversial' movies. Surely the most controversial thing was that it was playing in a multiplex in Nashville in the summer. Surely that valuable screen space could have been the fourth or fifth screen for the nobody-asked-for-it INDEPENDENCE DAY sequel! But I got lucky and co-financier Amazon pushed it out into American chains were it could earn about a million and change and then get dumped ASAP. But, how was it?

I liked THE NEON DEMON quite a lot, actually. That's not to say I think most people will also enjoy it as I have odd tastes and bizarre, slow films interest me more than the average filmgoer. Make no mistake - this is a very carefully crafted slow burn so if you aren't good with delayed gratification this one is not for you. It IS a horror film but one in which the horror slowly builds over the course of events first affecting a sense of unease and fear for the teenaged protagonist alone in a city of users and sleaze. Then, as sinister intentions become less veiled, the darker aspects of the various characters are revealed and things ramp up to a bloody and startling series of final acts.

I've read some takes on this film saying it is a thumb in the eye of the fashion industry and its never ending churn of fresh new faces for the camera. Of course, that means it's also painting the film industry in the same shameful and condemning colors - mostly red. Cinema has always been aware of the fact that it is creating images often worshipped by those with no hope of being on that big screen. THE NEON DEMON plays with the darkest end of the emotions that worship causes in the pretty young things that ache to be the object of that attention. It's a beautiful, deliberate film full of Argento and Bava inspired images but Winding-Refn refuses to rush to get to what horror fans will call 'the good parts'. For that they will hate him and I laud him. Bring on the next art horror film, sir. You are at least amusing me! 


THE OBSCENE MIRROR (1973) - 8 (Franco and Emma Cohen)
THE SPY WHO LOVED ME (1977) - 4 (rewatch)
CONAN THE BARBARIAN (1982) - 8 (rewatch of the longer cut)
THE DISORDERLY ORDERLY (1964)- 5 (most of the humor is sad but there is some entertainment value in spots)
GRAVE OF THE VAMPIRE (1972) - 6 (a rapist vampire!)
JAWS OF SATAN (1981) - 6 (fun low budget Alabama lensed JAWS rip-off with snakes) 
THE FALCON STRIKES BACK  (1943)- 5 (average for the series with bad sidekick comedy)
WHO CAN KILL A CHILD? (1976)- 8 (rewatch)
HUSH (2016) - 7 (well done woman-in-peril siege film)
GLADIATOR (2000) -10 (rewatch - Extend Edition)
SOYLENT GREEN (1973) - 9 (rewatch)
THE SIN SHIP (1931) - 5 (creaky melodrama with Mary Astor)
BRIDGE OF DRAGONS (1999) -  5 (not bad, low budget post-apocalyptic fantasy)
CHALLENGE OF THE GLADIATOR (1965)- 6 (decent sword & sandal epic)
NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (1984)- 4 (terrible but fun)
THE NEON DEMON (2016)- 7 (LA fashion bloodsuckers)
CHATO'S LAND (1972) - 7 (solid revenge western)
CHERRY FALLS (1999) - 7 (rewatch)
PRINCE OF THIEVES (1948) - 5 (OK Robin Hood tale) 


Unknown said...

I like your tagline for Grave of the Vampire! Chato's Land is a Charles Bronson movie that threw me off when I first saw it. I was expecting something like a Death Wish sequel. What was delivered was something a lot deeper. Most people usually rank The Spy Who Loved Me as Moore's best Bond outing, so I'm curious to know why the low rating?

Rod Barnett said...

The Spy Who Loved Me is (IMHO) one of the worst of the Moore Bonds. It started the sad trend of having the jokes override the espionage that future films would suffer under until Dalton. The Jaws character is Wile E. Coyote surviving repeatedly deadly encounters and just walking away dusting off his clothes, so he is never to be taken seriously. The score is abysmal reminding us all why disco had such a short shelf life. Oh - and it is a barely disguised remake of You Only Live Twice. There are a lot of good moments along the way and I like the theme song but the damned thing is a mess.

Unknown said...

I noticed that it was a remake of You Only Live Twice the first time I saw it. You failed to mention the best part of the movie, Rod. Caroline Munro! Am I wrong for thinking For Your Eyes Only is his strongest film?

Rod Barnett said...

Completely agree -For Your Eyes Only is Moore's best and one of the ten best of the series. And if there was only much more Munro...........

Armand40 said...

Really glad to hear you enjoyed "The Neon Demon", Rod! I am always easy victim for a new Refn movie and this is actually the first viewer feedback I cared to read (I may be a bit biased in selecting potentially favourable comments for this film...). I enjoyed most of his output so far and cannot wait to watch this one. He surely is one of the more interesting filmmakers of our time and I like how he dares to challenge his audience sometimes and defies expectations. Did you watch his early films? Besides the Punisher trilogy, I especially liked "Bleeder" quite a bit.

Rod Barnett said...

I must sadly report that I have only seen DRIVE and ONLY GOD FORGIVES from his earlier films. Ridiculous, I know, but I haven't sought them out. I know I should and they are on my 'to see' list but I haven't yet.