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Category Archives: 2012 Movies

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R5Pf3MlUo7c%5D

Ten Words or Less Review – A 30 year origin story.

In a fair world you could look up Death on allmusic.com and you’d see the following kind of discograhpy.  A pioneering original album in which the Hackney Brothers from Detroit (David, Bobby and Dannis) help define the roots of punk rock just a step ahead of the likes of the Sex Pistols and the Ramones.  It’s more dynamic follow up is quickly bestowed classic status and followed by a third album which is equally impressive but suffers just a touch from following on the heels of the second.  The fourth album is good but the band is starting to strain for ideas.  The fifth album changes stylistic gears as the 70’s close out and the casual fans fall away but the die hard fans think it’s an underrated listening experience.  The sixth album takes 4 years to materialize because someone in the band has a serious drug problem and infighting reigns.  The seventh album is a disaster in which only two of the brothers play on all the songs while the third brother/lead singer with drug issues barely warbles over a few tunes.  The band then breaks up for 18 years, forgettable and useless solo albums multiply, and only through age and maturity do they come back together to reclaim a piece of the music history they rightfully own.  It’s not an uncommon story in the music business, cliched really, but for Death, it was a common tale never meant to be.  They were black, they played rock music only white people thrived on and they called themselves Death.  Everyone in a position to decide things hated the name.

A Band Called Death chronicles the sad history of Detroit’s first, and only?, African-American punk rock outfit.  Death tried for years to be heard by the public at large.  False starts and a refusal to change the name resulted in lost opportunities and the band going nowhere.   30 years later a few select music nerds slowly built up the legend of the band and then in coincidences beyond strange, a son of one of the original band members came to find his father and uncles lost work had caught onto the underground listening scene of San Francisco.  Almost overnight, aside from those 30 years, Death became the defacto unknown band every music lover had to know.  Their master tapes were assembled into a complete, albeit short, album.  At just 7 songs and 25 minutes it’s barely a complete record but none the less, it’s unlikely and strange existence now places it in the pantheon of great punk records.

A Band Called Death isn’t any kind if master class documentary but it’s made well and isn’t too shabby around the edges.  The story it chronicles is fascinating to take in and punk fans, and fans of off beat stories in general, should find no end of curiosity within its 90 minute run time.  David Hackney can now stand as one of the lost musical visionaries whose ship never came in, though he knew time would find his music.  His insistence that his brother keep the Death master tapes is the kind of forward thinking often mistaken for wishful thinking.  It was also a last wish as David would die of lung cancer shortly after insisting on this.

Punk rock fans and documentary lovers owe it to themselves to catch A Band Called Death.  Maybe you won’t run out and buy an LP of their long lost works, even though you should.  Their music was innovative and fierce and there was far too little of it to listen to.  

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impostorThe Imposter (2012) – If this were a work of fiction no one would buy it for a second.  It’s simply too convoluted and ridiculous to consider plausible.  But this is a documentary, ergo, it’s all true.  In a small Texas town in 1994, 13 year old Nicholas Barclay goes missing as he walks home.  He never turns up.  Roughly 4 years later, the family gets a call from the FBI saying that Nicholas has turned up in Spain.  This is of course not Nicholas.  We know that from the get go because the imposter of the title is telling us this story.  He is Frédéric Bourdin and at the time he was a 23 year old French drifter with a knack for stealing and fabricating identities of younger boys so as to wind up in youth protection homes instead of prison.  On a desperate night he passes himself off as a frightened American to authorities.  Then left alone in an office he starts calling police departments in America trying to find a doppelganger for himself.  He latches onto Nicholas’ case and before he knows it the FBI is declaring him alive, Nicholas’ sister is on a flight to Spain to bring him home, and to really complicate matters, he looks absolutely nothing like Nicholas.  From there, events become even more outlandish and absolutely, positively true.  Worth watching for the WTF factor.

softlyKilling Them Softly (2012) – Grim, cynical and kind of nasty.  Brad Pitt and director Andrew Dominik seem destined to make offbeat genre movies that rankle audiences by refusing to court favor.  You couldn’t drag people to the duos hypnotic anti-western The Assassination of Jesse James and people were similarly repelled by this one.  Softly is essentially an underworld analogy to the 2008 economic meltdown.  A couple of idiots rob a gangland poker game and the carnage, both economic and human, ensues.  Pitt is a hitman sent to determine where guilt lies and mop up the mess.  Everyone involved in the heist, regardless of intent or degree of guilt, will pay a price.  As a whole the endeavor feels slightly minor and half formed to an extent.  At best it works an homage of sorts to Coen Brothers movies.  They could have killed this thing if they were at peak performance.  It’s just involving enough as a crime movie with scummy characters and amoral types populating its borders.  As slight as it may be the film ends with Pitt giving a bonafide speech which, in just a few short sentences, sums up the nature of America in all its repellent glory.  It’s brilliant.  Going through the rest of the movie to get to it, shortcomings and all, is worth it.

wonderTo the Wonder (2013) -Terence Malick directed The Thin Red Line, The New World and The Tree of Life.  All ambitious and wonderful films but they are all instances of critical love and audience scorn.  If a Malick movie starts with 20 people in the audience at least 6 are going to get up and leave, 4 are going to be mad they stayed, 5 will love it and 5 others will pretend to love it so the person next to them that did love it doesn’t look down on them for not getting it or liking it.  When his movies play in theaters they put up signs telling people they can forget about asking for refunds.  This isn’t The Avengers, deal with it.  Wonder doesn’t live up to Malick’s mostly transcendent body of work, but should none the less illicit the same kind of responses from an audiences at least.  It lacks the grand ambitions that have held up his past efforts and it can’t get past the sensation of being a movie in search of something it can’t quite find.  It’s essentially a relationship drama which floats along, following two people (Ben Affleck and Olga Kurylenko) as they fall in and out of love.  There are virtually no scenes of dialogue, just the observations of the filmmaker and the thoughts of the characters narrating the pretty cinematography and a sensation of repetitiveness is its biggest crime.  Also, a subplot with Javier Bardem as a spiritually lost priest never much connects with the rest of the film.  Of all of Malick’s movies it’s easily the hardest to defend from its detractors, but I still liked it.  The guy makes pretty movies which delve into a spiritual realm that no one else emulates and few appreciate.  Having Bach on the soundtrack doesn’t hurt either.

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Ten Word or Less Review: Fascinating + Stupid = Holy Motors.  (Fascistupid?)

10, 9, 10, 2, 1, 10, 9, 10, 1, 1, 2, 9, 10…..Look up Holy Motors on IMDB and these are the audience responses you will find.  In one corner you have adoring fans who find the movie’s quixotic nature a joy to behold.  They see an enigmatic treasure of groundbreaking cinema to be studied over and watched again and again, looking for answers in its warped pseudo narrative.  The other side says these people are full of crap and that Holy Motors is just mumbo jumbo nonsense elevated by French pretension and that director Leo Carax has done nothing more than assemble a collection of self-indulgent, art movie bullshit posing as high minded cinema.  So which side is right?  Both.

Motors starts in a movie theater full of people looking at the screen.  From there we go into a bedroom where we find Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant), the transforming man we will follow for the duration.  Oscar wakes up and unlocks a wall with a key that’s a physical extension of his finger.  He winds up in the theater with the audience along with a large dog.  We then find Oscar in a modern home with family and bodyguards leaving for the morning and getting into a limo.  In the limo he talks money matters on the phone and as he hangs up the real day begins.  Oscar receives dossiers and starts creating new personas through costume and makeup which he will play through out the day.  A short, bald, stringy looking older fellow, Oscar will become a hunchbacked elderly woman, a motion capture subject covered in dots indulging in simulated lust, a voracious and dangerous, green suited vagrant who consumes flowers and fingers.  He’ll be a gangster, a judgmental, unforgiving father, a man about to die and he’ll even have a musical interlude made up of dozens of guitars and accordion players.  So this movie is about what actually?

That’s where most people either loose patience with or become entranced by Holy Motors.  Do not we as movie goers spend our entire movie going life watching one person become numerous people?  Is Motors about the nature of performance and how the audience responds to the watching of one person become numerous people?  Is it strictly an avant-garde interpretation of the performers life?  Does an actor who plays so many identities have any identity of their own?  Maybe Motors is more literal than that, though I doubt it.  It is inferred in one scene that an audience of some sort is watching Oscar and the various roles he inhabits.  We also learn that Oscar is not the only one running around in a limo going from one scene to the next.  An entire fleet of limos is shuttling people like Oscar from one place to the next for unknowable reasons.  But Oscar also kills a banker not involved in his ‘performances’ and is subsequently shot and killed in the process.  But once taken back to the limo by his trusty driver he’s fine.  So there goes a literal explanation.

To the chagrin and annoyance of many no easy answer is lying out there for you to grab.  You can infer your own solutions or lay ideas over the movie but solid answers are not here to be seen and its innate Frenchieness is also at the heart of those who feel antagonized and annoyed while they’re watching.  There are moments peppered through out Holy Motors which high minded art film fans will label as comically surreal.  Some others of us will call these scenes moronic and stupid.  As Oscar winds down for the day, arriving at his last destination, he takes on the guise of an average working man.  Does Oscar go into a suburban home with a wife and kid and wind down with dinner and a glass of wine?  No, he lives with two monkeys.  After his insane vagrant persona kidnaps model Eva Mendes from a photo shoot, biting off the fingers of a photo assistant in the process, he does what with her?  He takes her into a cave, repurposes her high fashion garments into Arabic garb while stripping naked and sporting a boner.  He then cuddles up next to her and goes to sleep.  You figure it out.  It’s these asinine moments that tip Motors out of the realm of spontaneous, kinetic fun and into head scratching buffoonery.  It’s as if we’re watching someone create a film based on stream of conscience imagination through, strange uncharted waters who subsequently dives over the waterfall of unorthodox possibilities.  And as they make that incredible leap, they moon you and fart as they go over the edge.

The constant unknowable is what makes Motors such a massively divisive experience among viewers.  Reading through reviews for the film it’s clear you have to have a PHD in French cinema and previous Carax movies to get all the references being bandied about.  Its intent is a guessing game of possibilities and its execution runs the gamut from brilliant and ballsy to brazenly stupid.  The people who give into its strange nature can make sound arguments for it’s existence and those who reject it outright can make equally compelling arguments.  I tend to think both explanations have pros and cons.  I have to admire a film as open to interpretation and so free of traditional narrative traps.  Neck deep in the age of tepid, corporate filmmaking finding a true example of the free and spontaneous is rare.  At the same time when the limos start talking to each other about their day I feel a crushing experience of stupidity hit me square in the face and it kind of annoys the shit out of me.

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[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Tuc3zjvJU8%5D

Ten Word or Less Review:  How You’re Going To Die: The Movie

Amour can claim the dubious distinction of being the worst possible movie to ever watch with a grandparent or elderly person.  French director Michael Haneke got it in his noggin to make a movie which vividly portrays the infirmities and humiliations which come with post stroke old age.  And if that doesn’t sound like riveting cinematic potential to you don’t worry, it’s not.  I do have respect for Haneke and the brutal honesty he lays out.  It’s fine and admirable to get away from the Hollywood concept of old age.  In the past old age in movies has involved such charming scenarios as Jessica Tandy telling Morgan Freeman to drive slow, Jack Lemmon fighting with Walter Mattheau or going into space with Wilford Brimley.  But regardless, Amour isn’t much more than spending two hours watching an old french lady die.  Slowly.  Very, very slowly.

Jean Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play the loving old couple on which Haneke focuses his long takes and slow pacing.  Haneke doesn’t believe in camera movement.  Michael Bay would explode from anxiety watching this.  We endure Riva’s character fade away into a series of humiliating conditions and erratic behaviors as her husband watches and cares for the love of his life become catatonic and hopeless.  It’s unflinching cinema to be sure but it also feels thoroughly unnecessary, drawn out and relentlessly bleak.  It’s like some kind of snuff movie for the art house crowd.  You can appreciate the stellar performances at work from two senior statesmen of the French cinema but regardless of quality you’ll never want to watch a frame of this movie ever again when it’s over.

If you want to experience the sensation of being old and slipping away to disease, Amour is all that and a bag of chips.  It’s got strokes, bed wetting, adult diapers, night terrors, concerned but powerless kids, mean eldercare workers, enough glumness for a dozen other movies and one very important pillow.  In short, of all the movies nominated for best picture, it’s the one least likely to be seen by anyone.  But don’t worry, if you decide to skip Amour, like I know you will, chances are you or someone you know will get to live it.  Don’t we all have something to look forward to?  Remember to bring a pillow.  Cheers.

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[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n5rh7O4IDc0%5D
Ten Words or Less Review: Being young sucks, but it makes for a good movie.

Teenage coming of age stories may be a dime a dozen but ones which don’t feel like insufferable bullshit are few and far between.  Long before movies reduced adolescence to sexual hijinks involving pies and flutes it had mostly been a breeding ground for dick jokes.  Even semi-decent exercises in teen shenanigans like Easy A or 10 Things I Hate About You seem pretty vacuous in the end.  Outside the occasional indie flick the last mainstream filmmaker who seemed to have a genuine investment in putting some kind of accurate teenage portray to film was John Hughes and even he didn’t get it right all the time.  Sorry kids but Pretty in Pink is pretty silly.  All that brings us to The Perks of Being A Wallflower, a well honed and insightful exercise in angsty teen drama.  It’s kind of like Donnie Darko, minus the terrifying bunny and vibes of impending apocalypse.

Charlie is facing one of the worst crucibles of teen life, where does a kid with no real friends sit in the lunch room?  With no visible options presenting themselves, Charlie is forced to go solo, manning a table all by his lonesome.  Few fates in life are worse than this.  Perhaps leprosy but considering the ramifications of such an act one might as well have the limb eroding disease.  Charlie’s life goes on this way for a while until he’s accepted by Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), two misfit sibling seniors who shun mass acceptance to form their own informed clique with the other kids who are too clever to mesh with the pack.  Charlie has issues, some troubling mental ones which linger at the edges of his psyche, looking for reasons to crawl into his life and pull the rug out from under him.  With the encouragement of his new friends and a less despondent demeanor around him, and with a little help from mild drug use, Charlie slowly grows into a unique and interesting person, conflicted a lot by love and confused by the actions of his friends when they don’t add up emotionally.  And when they don’t add up, Charlie starts to lapse into the dark corners in his mind where pain and anguish reside.

Director Stephen Chbosky channels the Hughesian vibe of films like The Breakfast Club into his adaptation of his own acclaimed novel.  By adapting and directing his own book he’s avoided the pratfalls which descend upon those poor bastards who give their works to Hollywood and hope for the best but end up with the worst.  I’m sure there’s no small level of autobiography in his story which explains why the material resonates so well.  He understands the pangs of emotional growth, the hopeless feelings of unreciprocated crushes and the fortitude it takes to be your own person.  This isn’t to say Chbosky is a perfect filmmaker.  Early in the story Charlie mentions a friend who commits suicide only to never hear the friend mentioned again.  And the crux of Charlie’s anguish, his relationship to a deceased aunt, takes a dark turn in the finale but the last revelation isn’t made very clear.  I had to ask a friend who had read the book if I had interpreted it right.  And I really have a hard time swallowing that a bunch of hip kids who love great music would not know a David Bowie classic.  But the movie is set in the pre-interent world of the late 80’s/early 90’s, making mix tape age so I’ll let that go.

Perks contains performances the young cast should look back on fondly years from now.  Logan Lerman is 20 but he can pass himself off as the barely adolescent cousin of Tobey Maguire.  His is a quiet and unassuming part made whole through glances and small gestures.  When Charlie turns desperate and lost, he’s earned our sympathy and keeps the anguish and despondency believable.  Ezra Miller’s Patrick is the most slippery slope role of the bunch.  Playing the flaming gay guy can always blow up in the audiences face but Chbosky’s screenplay has more respect for the role than to turn it into a screaming joke.  Emma Watson shines best and brightest of all.  Grown up and with the Potterverse in her past, those who proclaimed her most likely to have a career as an actress post Potter are given a lot of ammunition for their argument.  She’s a glowing and gorgeous screen presence, capable of anything.  May Hollywood treat her well and bestow her with great roles for decades to come.

I’m going to have to shuffle around my Top 10 of 2012, again.  Of course I like the films on the list a great deal but there’s an absence of heart in most of the movies.  I commented at the time of the posting that there was too much action populating things but Perks rectifies that issue a great deal.  It has a warmth and emotional insight into things that most movies, regardless of being about teens or not, are afraid or unable to nail down.  And since it made jack while at the theater I know most of you haven’t seen it so hop to it.  There’s very little better you’re going to find.

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Ten Word or Less Review : Adaptation, with guns.

Martin McDonagh may be destined to be one of those filmmakers too clever by half for the typically ‘make it shallow and obvious’ Hollywood marketing machine.  Seven Psychopaths marks the second effort by McDonagh, In Bruges the first, where the English director has crafted a well beyond the norm comedy piece that the distributing studio had almost no idea how to sell.  In both cases the studio in question tried to sell the effort as an aggressively quirky and violent comedy lark where you rolled over with laughter as people got blown away.  In both cases that sells the finale product very short and people didn’t buy it regardless.  Time to try something else marketing department.

Not as solemn as In Bruges but no less skillfully executed, Psychopaths features an well honed cast of performers for this story of dog-napping, murder and meta-fiction.  Colin Farrell is Marty, a struggling screenwriter trying to get a grasp on his new screenplay, Seven Psychopaths.  Marty’s best friend is Billy (Sam Rockwell), who along with Hans (Christopher Walken), operates a dognapping business.  They take dog, reward its posted, they return dog, grateful owner pays reward.  One afternoon Billy and Hans take a Shih Tzu belonging to Charlie (Woody Harrelson), a mobster with some severe affection for his furry friend.  So much so that he has no qualms about killing the dumbasses who dared to snatch his adorable pooch.  From this silly setup McDonagh unravels a piece of self awareness fiction that would make Adaptation author Charlie Kauffman proud.  To shake it down to the basics, as Marty takes part in the film we’re watching, he begins to construct the film he will write, which is basically the film we’re watching.  Except there’s a Vietnamese guy with dynamite and a hooker involved.

Farrell fits right into this material.  McDonagh is one of the keen directors who get Farrell and know what he’s capable of as a performer.  He can do pathos and panic and sell a viewer on both equally.  It stands in stark contrast to the empty vessel performance he had to deliver for Total Recall.  Sam Rockwell was put on this Earth to play cracked, scummy and strange.  He’s one of those actors who under no circumstances can play ‘normal’ and nor would you want him too.  He shells out too much energy playing nuts.  Christopher Walken is also top tier, embodied and emboldened by his sheer Walkenness.  With so much age and life on his eyes he can make a simple stare into something mesmerizing and destructive and never seem the least bit affected by what he’s doing.  Woody Harrelson makes a funny, chilling mobster and Tom Waits blesses us with his presence too.  Anytime Tom Waits shows up, affectionately wielding a white rabbit no less, one should afford some respect.

This is the kind of movie which could have easily lapsed into gimmickry for its own sake.  An endless parade of nudges and winks at the audience, impressed with itself for being clever.  But being clever isn’t enough.  McDonagh knows this and knows to populate his film with characters we can empathize with and enjoy watching, even when they’re psychotic.  This is a comedy to respect on several different levels.  Here’s hoping that one day Hollywood figures out how to sell McDonagh to the world.  Until then those of us who do know will keep telling the rest of you how good his movies are.

7

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hX2CO4YyREU%5D

 

Ten Words or Less Review: Colors 2: South Central Still Sucks

Before I watched this movie I should have gone back and seen Colors, the Sean Penn/Robert Duvall LAPD cop drama from the late 80’s.  I’d like to see how the aesthetic and attitudes match up.  To see what 25 years have done to the Hollywood perception of the worst parts of L.A. and the cops who patrol it.  My guess is that what producers saw as a dangerous, hopeless Hell hole then is seen as the same dangerous, hopeless Hell hole now.  Except there are more Latinos.  End of Watch is about two cops who spend their days patrolling this cracked corner of the world, where the most debased level of human atrocity is now the norm.

Jake Gyllenhal and Michael Pena play Brian and Zavala, two cops who patrol their assigned district with a kind of jovial determination to the job.  They show respect for people as much as they can but they know where the line is and expect both cop and criminal to adhere to it to some degree.  To say they see and experience the hard side of life is the understatement of all understatements.  Dealing with a crackhead Mom whose duct taped her kids up in the closet and forgotten about it is the least of the offenses they inevitably witness.  These two see the grizzly underbelly of the world day in and day out, but still remain composed and humorous in the face of the unimaginable.  One keeps expecting their psyches to warp and fracture but the narrative doesn’t delve into trite histrionics about cops breaking down in the face of humanity’s worst.  If you join the LAPD in this day and age you should known pretty well what you’re heading into and Watch knows that.  Watch is more dedicated to the tropes and procedure of the contemporary cop life, albeit amplified to some degree.

One could make a sound argument that the direction and screenplay by David Ayer places Brian and Zavala in one too many hair raising situations.  The burning building sequence starts to push credibility and then the duo become the target of a drug cartel.  One has to accept a certain amount of dramatic flexibility and though Watch pushes, it doesn’t snap.  David Ayer has been mining trolling through the LAPD for stories for a decade now, writing and directing less noted efforts like Harsh Times and Street Kings.  I haven’t seen either.  His screenplay to Training Day was top tier until its brain damaged finale act took hold and wrecked the effort.  End of Watch is perhaps the first time he’s succeeded in digging into the LAPD with a minimal amount of compromise.  His decision to adopt the handheld, found footage aesthetic doesn’t stress the viewer out.  You could even say there’s a symmetry to the style.  Couldn’t Cops claim to be the birth place of the hand held movie?  Ayers cheats this system when he needs to which works for the best.  Strict adherence to character POV isn’t always the best way to go.  In the end there’s the slovenly nature that the genre replicates, but it’s organized and composed enough to feel professional and well edited.

Watch rest on the shoulders of Gyllenhal and Pena and they accomplish something so few movies do, a believable spirit of friendship and brotherhood.  They go back and forth like two assholes who have known each other for too long, always knowing what the other is thinking.  So many stories pinned on the hope of chemistry between actors can be railroaded because the actors in question feel like they met 5 minutes before the camera started.  For Gyllenhal this is probably one of the few ‘normal’ parts he’s ever managed.  Though he did it exceedingly well he was getting too often cast as the perpetually distant or emotionally isolated weirdo.  This and Source Code show an actor trying to be just a touch less mannered and esoteric   Watch shows us that he can be a convincing charmer and all around everyday shithead, not just the strange kid talking to a tall invisible rabbit.  Pena, mostly an unknown to me, matches up against him beat for beat.  I don’t believe Pena has ever grabbed my attention in his long career but he’s great here.  While the fate of these two friends seems preordained, it still resonates in the unfolding because of the bond Gyllenhal and Pena have created.

While diligently built on the back of predictable but perhaps unavoidable cop movie cliches, End of Watch strives to rise above the text book nature of its plot and become something more than ‘another cop movie’.  It’s a top notch piece of drama that brings the viewer into the world of the LAPD with a convincing aesthetic.  Plenty of movies and cop shows have delved into this territory over the decades and as long as South Central remains a pit they’ll keep doing so, but End of Watch can claim to be being one of the best examples of the LAPD cop drama.

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[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GPcMKd_73Ys%5D
Ten Word or Less Review: If Van Damme made David Lynch direct his movie.

Most of my Sunday evenings are spent hanging out with a couple of friends.  We watch movies too embarrassing to admit to seeing to anyone beyond those in the room.  I never write about these movies.  It’s tantamount to drunk texting someone.  You just embarrass yourself for doing it and the person reading it simply loses respect for you.  But embarrassment be damned, I feel oddly compelled to say something about Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning.  It’s certainly not good, but it’s definitely too damn odd to not say nothing.

In case you didn’t keep up, don’t worry no one did, there are now 6 movies under the Universal Soldier banner.  I didn’t realize that the original 1992 Van Damme/Lundgren effort had been quite so prolific.  21 years after that marginally noticed sci-fi effort the franchise now keeps chugging along with straight to DVD releases featuring a haggard looking Van Damme and a leathery Lundgren.  99 out of 100 times movies like this are terminally boring but director John Hyams had a moment of inspiration, maybe after making the last awful entry in this series, try to make an art house flick instead of a run of the mill kicks and guns movie that ends in an abandoned warehouse.  Instead of the usual dreary exercise in B-movie action shit, he decided to get in touch with his inner David Lynch.  He locked himself in a room with the Lynch movie library playing on a loop for a week straight, with extra Lost Highway viewings, and then set out to make Day of Reckoning, fresh, dream-like perversions in mind.

The first 30-40 minutes of Reckoning are pure Lynch inspired territory.  The movie sets up a dark, grim and thoroughly anxiety inducing atmosphere.  Some scenes may induce epileptic fits in more sensitive viewers.  When a character goes into a strip bar I figured I’d see Bill Pullman raging on a sax in back.  Van Damme eventually starts showing up in white face kabuki makeup.  It’s a bad acid trip of movie making and one has no choice but to be kind of impressed that such genuine psychedelic effort is being exerted in pursuit of what should be nothing more than a cynical, soulless action movie no one but the most undemanding moron would like.  The outbursts of violence are extreme and brutal and there’s just no pussy footing around anything.  It’s gory and harsh and the idea that someone has finally broken this repetitious action movie cycle starts to creep into your head as a real possibility.  But then reality sets in, nothing happens for too long and the freaky atmosphere runs itself into the ground.  With no real story or screenplay to get into, it all adds up to an extravagant zilch.

With all the weirdo quirks and oddities failing to amount to anything, you slowly realize a sense of tedium creeping into the thing and before long it’s killed itself.  In the unforgivable sin department Van Damme and Lundgren are no more than glorified cameos, leaving starring duties to some dude named Scott Atkins.  Looking at his IMDB resume it looks like he’s making a name for himself in the straight to On-Demand action market.  Meaning he’s a glorified stunt man asked to kick and punch and not gum up the works with creaky line readings or emotions.  I see exercise videos in his future.  A finale featuring Van Damme done up as a Col. Kurtz inspired loon, bald head painted with black/white makeup, almost brings it back to that fringe where it wanted to live, but it’s not enough.

There are some admirable and viscous fight scenes here, the punched bowling ball bit was a riot, and the warped presentation feels fresh for a while, but before long the same sensation of dull, crappy action flick weariness settles in for the remainder with just a different presentation.  Still, there’s a lesson to be learned here.  If you’re tasked with directing a shitty action movie sequel with a dopey subtitle, go for broke.  There’s absolutely nothing to lose.  All movies like this suck regardless so do your damnedest to make it as odd as possible.  The worst thing that can happen is that someone notices that you made something someone might remember after hitting the stop button.

JCVD AND LUND

2012 Best Movies

 

BEST OF 2012

I still haven’t seen a number of notable films.  No Amour or Holy Motors.  The French film fan in me is very disappointed in himself.  I think there’s too much action in this list but hey, that’s what worked this year.  Argo missed the cut by a hair.  I liked it a lot but it just felt it was too cut and dry in presentation for me.  I’d have loved to have put Ted on here but the last 20 minutes of that movie are a train wreck.  Dredd didn’t make it because The Raid is simply so much crazier.  Listed below are the rest of the years films.

Went for it and missed a little or are just fun efforts

ARGO
TED  
PREMIUM RUSH
DREDD 
LIFE OF PI
KILLER JOE
CLOUD ATLAS 
BERNIE 
THE WOMAN IN BLACK
GET THE GRINGO
FRANKENWEENIE

Some nice parts, performances or technique but the whole didn’t add up

ANNA KARINENNA
THE HOBBIT: UNEXPECTED JOURNEY
SILVER LINING PLAYBOOK 
JACK REACHER
THE BOURNE LEGACY
THE AVENGERS
PARANORMAN
JOHN CARTER
BRAVE

Overrated, silly or otherwise a missed opportunity

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD
THE MASTER
21 JUMP STREET
CABIN IN THE WOODS
CHRONICLE
SAVAGES
HUNGER GAMES
HAYWIRE
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
GOD BLESS AMERICA

Boring, stupid and generally worthless efforts

WRECK IT RALPH
WRATH OF THE TITANS
TROUBLE WITH THE CURVE
EXPENDABLES 2
GOON
THE AMAZING SPIDER MAN
TOTAL RECALL
PROMETHEUS
LES MISERABLES
THE DICTATOR 
GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGEANCE
LOCKOUT

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuEFm84s4oI%5D

Ten Word or Less Review: I dreamed a dream where my head exploded.

Some movies, no matter how packed with high caliber prestige and ambition they may be, simply cannot be digested by some people.  A movie like Les Miserables is difficult to critique because at no point does it fail on its own terms.  It is a handsomely produced, thoroughly dedicated and authentic recreation of a Broadway sensation that millions of people have seen and adore.  Its cast is top notch and clearly emboldened by the material they are bringing to life.  Director Tom Hooper (The Kings Speech) crafts a gorgeous film full of lively camera work and excellent cinematography.  Technically speaking the movie is nearly faultless.  For those people with built investment this movie is a going to be a majestic achievement few other efforts could ever hope to reach.  For those of us with a less reverent point of view towards the source material, Les Miserables is tantamount to a subtle, slow form of torture.

There’s a scene in Zero Dark Thirty, one of the controversial torture scenes, where a suspected Islamic militant is being deprived of sleep through the use of extremely loud heavy metal music.  This probably seems wildly flippant on my part but I honestly started to feel pangs of what someone like that must be going through as I watched Miserable.  The movie feels like one song sung continuously for 160 minutes straight at an incredible decibel level.  Dialogue isn’t spoken, it is belted out for the rafters to absorb and anything resembling subtlety is shunned like one of the poor rabble rebelling against their bourgeoisie oppressors.  It’s a merciless sonic attack at every turn and for those not in tune with what this film is about, it could prove to be a most arduous cinematic sit.  Only a few bits with Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter flirt with mischievousness, briefly breaking up the aural monotony on display.

Fans of this material have clearly voiced their appreciation for this production.  They have diligently applauded the effort of Wolverine, Maximus, Catwoman and the rest of the pack.  Leaving the theater fans hum and sing and feel elevated by the experience.  For those among you curious to see but maybe not sold on the idea, you have been warned.  This movie is going to sing until your ears bleed and ache.  Everyone in it is going to sing the fuck out of every single note and make sure you cry your damn heart out by the end.  If being tied to a chair and forced to endure the musical bombast on display here sounds like a winner to you, God speed and good luck on your journey.  If you thought this movie was destined to split your head open and make your brain run out your ears, it will.

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