Saturday, April 15, 2006

Random Reviews - Early '06

The following reviews were done on a whim in early 2006. I obviously hadn't committed to a routine or level of quality yet in my writing, but here they are anyway...

V For Vendetta - Another movie based off a comic book.  I haven't read the comic before, but I thought the movie was pretty good.  I actually had no real interest in seeing it, but Scott didn't have anyone to see it with and I didn't have anyone to see Slither with, so we made a deal that if I saw V with him he would see Slither with me.  I had no real knowledge of what the movie was about going in, so I had no expectations.  Scott on the other hand had read the book and said that while it was different, it did a good job of telling the same story.  I particularly enjoyed the fact that you never see V's face.  No offense to Hugo Weaving.

Slither - I was alone in my opinion that this movie would be good.  In fact, even I had my doubts, but I held strong to my convictions and by God, I loved this movie. Not since Tremors has a movie so successfully combined humor and monsters into an experience that wasn't either too serious for it's own good or too ridiculous for it's own good.  Slither is the perfect combination of all the factors that go into making a good, fun monster movie.  As I said, it's got the humor of Tremors that comes less from silly situations and more from the reactions of the cast when put into situations that are alien to them.  It has some of the best creature design and special effects since John Carpenter's The Thing, and much of it was done without computer effects.  Another thing that I think is key to making a good monster movie is the originality of the concepts that go into it.  For example, one of the biggest reasons for the success of the first Alien movie was the original concept behind the alien itself.  No one had ever thought of a creature gestating inside a human host an bursting out of their chest before.  It's new, good ideas like that which will trap in repeated viewings moreso than wild computer effects and cheap laughs.  Slither has some wonderful concepts and original ideas in it, which in the end is what really made it such a great experience for me.  Then of course were the hidden homages to other monster movies, many of which are the one's I've listed in comparison to Slither.  For example, the name of the High School in the film is the Burt Gummer High School, which is Michael Gross' character's name in Tremors, or the general named after R.J. MacReady, which was Kurt Russel's character's name in The Thing.  I recommend this movie to anyone who likes monster movies not because of their "B" qualities, but because they are an interesting piece of science fiction.

Saw II - After seeing this movie, I still prefer the first Saw.  The original was made with a severely limited budget, but because of it's originality and an obvious amount of care infused from the creators, it made for an entertaining viewing experience.  This is one of those sequels that felt more like it was made to make a quick buck off the popularity of the first one than because someone actually had a good idea for how to continue the story.  Personally I found the acting horrible from a lot of the cast, but I have to admit that the ending was pretty good.  They managed to tie things in with the first one in the last five minutes of the movie or so, but it wasn't enough to really make me care too much about it.

Jarhead - Sometimes this movie felt a little too much like Full Metal Jacket for me.  Overall it's a decent war movie with more time taken to develop the characters than to blow them up, which I liked.  The ending left me with a feeling of depression and hopelessness that I haven't felt since watching Dead Presidents.  I'm honestly pretty sick of war movies, which have seemed to be all the rage for the past few years, but this one was a welcome change from the washed out macine guns ringing in your ears before they drop out the sound and show people yelling but you can't hear what their saying as the triumphant music comes in reminding you of the levity of the situatuion-style trend that began with Saving Private Ryan.

3 Extremes - "An Asian cross-cultural trilogy of horror films from accomplished indie directors."  From what I understand, one of the films is Japanese, one is Korean, and one is Chinese.  Call me simple-minded, but I couldn't tell you which was which.  First we have "Dumplings".  This short film is about a middle-aged woman who fears that her husband is becoming less interested in her so she goes to extreme measures to make herself more appealing to the eye.  She visits a woman known as Aunt Mae (no relation to Aunt May from Spiderman) who makes special dumplings (leading me to believe that this may be the Chinese film since I've had dumplings at a Chinese restaurant before) that are supposed to reverse the aging process.  The secret ingredient in these dumplings?  Human fetuses.  Yummy.  Among the most disturbing scenes in this short are those in which we see Aunt Mae perform an abortion on a schoolgirl (i.e. watching a fetus drop from between her legs and into a bloody tub of water) and when said schoolgirl then bleeds all over her bus seat on the way home and some guy in white pants sits in it.  However the part I found most apalling occurs after the cops come after Aunt Mae and she abandons her apartment, so the main character is forced to perform an abortion on herself at home with a metal clothes hanger in hopes of eating her own aborted fetus.  The second short is called "Cut".  An extra kidnaps a director who is a genuinely nice guy and tells him that he'll cut off one of his wife's fingers every five minutes unless he strangles a little girl to death.  The little girl turns out to be a little boy, and not just any little boy, but the son of the kidnapper.  This one felt kind of like a Tarantino story.  It basically all takes place in one room as these four people go through all kinds of wacky and hellish experiences together.  This was my favorite of the three films.  Finally we have "Box".  The most boring, most confusing, and probably my least favorite of the three shorts.  Here we have the story of a girl who, in her youth (when she was about eight, I guess), was a contortionist alongside her twin sister.  They worked for a magician who was a good twenty years older than them.  Their act climaxed with the two of them squeezing themselves into a pair of tiny little boxes that no human should be able to fit into.  When her sister begins sleeping with the dirty old man she becomes jealous and locks her in her box while she's practicing.  Then the building accidentally catches on fire and her sister is trapped inside the box and dies.  Now, several years later, she's haunted by her sister in the style of The Ring, The Grudge, Dark Water, and all those other Japanese-inspired horror flicks with creepy little girls in them.

Nothing - This is the most truly original movie I've seen in years.  I picked it up because it's from the same director that made Cube, Vincenzo Natali.  Basically what we've got are two friends who live together in a shitty house, have shitty lives and shitty luck.  All at once they're being arrested, sued, and made homeless, when suddenly everything disappears.  Yes, literally.  About twenty minutes into the movie the world disappears and the rest of the film takes place in a white void.  No sky, no ground, just white.  What the characters come to realize is that they somehow have the ability to "hate things away".  Basically, anything they don't like, they can make disappear.  However, they can't make things reappear, so once they're gone, they can't come back.  Just imagine what can happen in this situation when they start arguing.  The special effects aren't always the best and it gets a little ridiculous at times, but overall I found it quite entertaining.  If nothing else, it's definitely original.

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