Friday, October 17, 2014

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy's Revenge Review

Horror is typically my least favorite genre, not due to a lack of fine options but mostly because dead teenagers and gore don't click with me the way a science fiction adventure or a moody, brilliant thriller do. 

I revisited the extremely entertaining horror classic the other day, the original Nightmare on Elm Street, and I realized something: I had never seen a single other film from the series. Not only no full features, no scenes, no moments, nothing. Any images of Freddy Krueger dancing through my head had been derived from one single film, and that needed to change.

Did it though? Did it need to change?

Part 2, Freddy's Revenge, is a terrible film. Everything that I admire about the original film is completely absent in this strange follow up that seems to be addressing some sort of subtext about being a homosexual, but if this was attempting anything meaningful thematically it was lost on me, as the tone of this film went beyond a fun and manageable level of camp and left me wondering if it was just a poorly executed satire. 

The original film worked for me because the concept of being afraid to go to sleep, that any time you close your eyes a man could be waiting for you to ensure that you never wake up, is haunting and beyond compelling. This sequel totally shits all over these elements, it is void of anything even remotely scary, and I had zero fun watching any of it.

I have been told Part 3, Dream Warriors, is a far superior effort than this. I certainly hope so. A character as iconic as Freddy deserves far, far better.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gone Girl Review

If you take a look at my patterns of film watching, the reviews I post or my favorite films lists, it is quite clear that I have a cinematic love affair with David Fincher that may make some roll their eyes. The word that will come to the minds of many is "fanboy", and it is often used in a derogatory fashion as if being swept away by the work of a true auteur is somehow something to be ashamed of. Perhaps others won't quite understand the passion I share for the work of Mr. Fincher, and that is totally fine. To each their own is something I say often and truly believe in, but I implore you to not diminish the feelings of others as being some sort of blind, biased fandom that will not allow for an honest reaction. Hell, I would probably throw my panties at the man if he were to walk back at this moment, and even I had trouble staying awake during the painfully disappointing experience I had viewing The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

The point is, I walked into the cinema to see Gone Girl anticipating something special, and it managed to surpass the lofty expectations I had set. It wasn't merely a Fincher thing, it was fucking everything. EVERYTHING. The across the board stunning performances, the gorgeous cinematography by Jeff Cronenweth, the seamless and brilliant editing of Kirk Baxter, the absolutely pitch perfect score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross that managed to suit every moment of the film, from the times we are lead to believe in true love to the blood soaked frames that successfully shake the people in the audience to their core. The brilliantly adapted screenplay by Gillian Flynn who also penned the source material the film is based on, which makes me respect her work all that much more. I can't imagine it is an easy task to take your own words and be willing to chop them up and streamline them into a perfectly paced film, but Flynn certainly was the right choice for the job.

I mentioned the performances and the casting of Gone Girl proved to be sublime, but I must zero in on one specific person and gush like a teenage boy with a crush: Rosamund Pike. I couldn't take my eyes off of her regardless of the scenario, and it occurred to me that something about her screen presence here could have worked in any era of film. Pike felt simultaneously modern and classic, like she is stunningly beautiful in 2014 and yet also would light up the screen sixty years ago the way Grace Kelly did in the Hitchcock masterpiece Rear Window. Every time she spoke, every mannerism and facial expression, all the nuance of the character and what it took to pull off the role, if her name isn't among the nominations for Best Actress at the 2015 Academy Awards I will seriously question how it could be possible for five other options to be more worthy.

The production of Gone Girl was certainly a team effort and every single player involved brought their best to their work, and the man running the show is a true genius of the medium. After witnessing the 2010 masterpiece The Social Network, I figured he had crafted that one truly enlightened work of his career that would be reflected on as his most impressive achievement, and perhaps that is still the case. For me though, Gone Girl is right there in the discussion, a defining work that will be misunderstood by some as being a simple, pulpy, sinister film about the twists and turns of a bizarre (to say the least) marriage. It is so, so much more, a thematically rich experience that delves into relevant issues like personal identity, the way we rush to make crucial judgments about others thanks to the instant access world of social media, and the comical and yet uncomfortable amount of manipulation that takes place not only by the media but also the subjects those cameras are focused on. Every word delivered is calculated, every wardrobe choice is carefully planned and every nervous tick and accidental slip up is caught by watchful eyes and used to determine the guilt of a suspect before they even have the chance to enter a courtroom.

After I saw the magnificent film Boyhood, I quickly declared it to likely be the best work of 2014 and it is certainly worthy of that distinction, but then I recall saying to someone that I should hold off on such verbose declarations because this was a year that would still deliver two films I anticipated like a kid on Christmas Eve, Gone Girl and Interstellar.

Despite my love for all things Fincher, I doubted he could actually top the Linklater masterpiece. I must revisit Boyhood because right now, still reveling in that fresh cinematic glow sprinkled on me from Gone Girl, we have a new champion of 2014.

Your move, Nolan.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Zodiac Review

The sequence in the film when Robert Graysmith agrees to follow Bob Vaughn, a man who played the organ at a silent movie house that may have also employed the Zodiac killer, back to his home to talk, is a stunningly haunting piece of cinema. I have seen the film 6 or 7 or 8 or who the hell is counting times so far and that scene in the basement doesn't lose an ounce of brilliance with each revisit.

The entire set piece of the home, every nook and cranny of each room, the way the camera so effectively uses angles and space to make the audience feel just as uncomfortable and paranoid as Graysmith, all of it is nothing short of masterful. 

You could describe that scene to someone and essentially what you are saying is, dude goes into a house, goes into a basement, gets scared and leaves, and it would seem like nothing consequential actually occurs, but my god what happens in those few minutes brings my water to a boil more rapidly than most entire horror films. 

Zodiac is an expertly crafted masterpiece, which amazingly is the way I describe five separate David Fincher films. Hopefully six after I see Gone Girl tomorrow night...


Friday, October 3, 2014

White Bird in a Blizzard Review

Shailene Woodley is fantastically talented, and she delivers another nuanced, top notch performance in White Bird in a Blizzard.

That's it. That's all I got. I spent a good five full minutes baffled at the end of this film trying to determine whether I really, really hated it, or just kinda hated it, and my mental search for positives came up with one thing: the lead performance. Everything else was pretty much horseshit.

Okay, so it has some decent cinematography during the occasional dream sequence, but who gives a flying turd when it pops up in the midst of a lifeless, seemingly pointless narrative that relies on uninteresting voice-overs and absurdly cartoonish performances? What is this film about? According to Peter Debruge from Variety, it is  "a complex take on how teens must break away from their parents to become their own person". What? Where the fuck did he pull this from?

During the first 90 percent of the running time, White Bird in a Blizzard is bland and rather boring. It is less than 90 minutes long and yet it felt like I could have watched the first two Lord of the Rings films during the same time span. Even so, I didn't quite hate the film until the very end. In a matter of moments it went from below-average forgettable to memorably terrible when the totally awful rushed ending is thrown in our faces, again delivered entirely via voice-over, because there is nothing better than 87 minutes of building up to something and then 94 seconds of quickly explaining everything to us. Oh, and the supposed to be shocking twist ending? The icing on the poop filled cake.

You deserve better than this Shailene. We all deserve better than this. Director Gregg Araki may show some potential behind the camera, but please lord, next time either adapt stronger material or hire someone else to wield the pen. A series of who gives a shit moments and characters and weird, trippy dreams all adds up to a total failure of a film.