Monthly Archives: August 2013

WYSHW: Howl

Franco, Hamm, and poetry. It's a good time.

Franco, Hamm, and poetry. It’s a good time.

When I made an allusion to Ginsberg in last week’s What You Should Have Watched, sadly, I was not referring to the much-anticipated Kill Your Darlings – you see, while James Franco was busy running around doing everything, he did a spectacular little film that didn’t receive much hype, despite its crucial subject matter. This film is simply entitled Howl, and it dives into the epic poem‘s genesis as well as its controversy, which helped shape a revolution in the history of art and publication.

Essentially, there really isn’t much more to it then that. We’re given the 1957 obscenity trial, with Franco as Ginsberg weaving his poem throughout the trial – the crux of each phrase then punctuated by breathtaking animation. The best part is, the rest is history.

It’s one thing to be a fan of Ginsberg before going into this, but I personally think that the subject matter is so strong that anyone who appreciates the power of art, literature and creative liberty will truly admire the message of the film.  The beauty is in the film’s simplicity: this was an action that sparked a generation, delivered with a delicate balance of poignancy and reserve. Check. It. Out.

Next time on What You Should Have Watched, let’s talk a little more about one of Ginsberg’s best buddies – all six of them.

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The World’s End

And so we reach the end of Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy: we had our horror/romance strawberry, the traditional bold blue of buddy-cop films, and we have now our minty fresh sci-fi extravaganza.  Our story begins and ends with Gary King, an alcoholic who truly believes that the best night of his life was when he was 17, when he and his four friends began an epic pub crawl through their hometown of Newton Haven and never completed it. Twenty years later and desperate for one more night of glory, King convinces his friends Pete, Steve, Oliver and Andy to rejoin him on his epic quest. Of course, if you’ve learned anything from Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz, some crazy shit is about to go down.

Now, which of these men is desperately holding on to their childhood?

Now, which of these men is desperately holding on to their childhood?

Personally, I found The World’s End to be a wonderfully dynamic film. We’re given this simple idea of the intoxication of nostalgia, and that gets blown up through sobering realism and revelation (okay, I’ll stop with booze puns). After all, once you leave home and come back, nothing ever seems the same. Then other times, things literally are not the same – whether it be a personal growth, or you have been replaced by an alien robot.  Through the humor and heaviness, we’re presented with a personal journey for an unlikable but human character, as well as an honest portrayal of the hazards of old wounds – ultimately a story of friendship and letting go. (I just want to note that Pete’s short but heartfelt soliloquy in The Cross Hands was probably my favorite moment.)

The Blanks remind me of The Wall for some reason.

The Blanks remind me of something from The Wall for some reason.

I can’t help but gush over how well Wright and Simon Pegg wrote this film. There’s no doubt that there are a plethora of themes, but it’s very interesting how the concept of foreshadowing plays through the story with so much depth. For instance, obviously the original crawl would foreshadow the guys’ second attempt, but the fact that the names of the pubs reflect pivotal points of the story is incredibly well planned. Of course, there are more instances than this, but I really don’t want to spoil anything – just keep on the look out, yeh know?

Well-written, well-acted (easily my favorite of Nick Frost’s performances), ardent and hysterical, The World’s End is the perfect way to end this genre-bending trilogy.

Final Grade: A

 

Can I Tell You Something About Bears?

Hobo with a Shotgun was one of those movies that I knew I would fall in love with as soon as I heard the title. And guess what – I friggen love this movie. At first, it seems like this movie might be destined for failure, only because it looks like the type that will simply try too hard to be edgy and gross. Personally, I don’t think so.

I'm glad this happened to Rutger Hauer.

I’m so glad Rutger Hauer was cast in this.

The story of Hobo with a Shotgun begins with our protagonist, a nameless hobo, entering a wrecked city once known as “Hope Town,” aptly renamed to “Scum Town.” As Hobo trudges through, he is quickly introduced to the depravity and corruption that makes Scum Town ticked, and finds himself outraged that such inhumanity can exist. After befriending a mean-well hooker, Hobo decides to stand up to the injustices of Scum Town, armed with nothing but a shotgun. After the murder of many ne’er do wells, Hobo earns the attention of Scum Town’s overseer, The Drake, a ruthless drug lord. It soon becomes an epic battle royale between our vagabond vigilante and The Drake’s hit-men, The Plague.

Trivia: The Plague is such a key part of Scum Town's mythos, you can see someone playing a Plague-themed game in the arcade.

TriviaHobo features a Plague-themed arcade game – they are that deeply embedded into the town’s mythos.

I’m not saying that Hobo isn’t absolutely ridiculous, because it totally is. But what makes someone such as myself appreciate such a cultastic piece of film is the amount of thought and effort to be both referential to exploitation films of old while being completely twisted and original. Scum Town isn’t just any derelict city – this place has rules and consequences. Totally messed up rules and consequences, but a system none the less. When subjected to Scum Town’s cruelties, we soon root for this newcomer – its’ a simple formula, but it works.

Personally, I think there’s an undeniable charm to this film, considering the efforts made to reference older goresploitation/cult films such as Mark of the Devil, Cannibal Holocaust and Dead Alive – from themes, to the music – even the color scheme pops out in true technicolor. Additionally, given the performances, you can tell everyone involved were having a blast making this thing, which as we know always plays well onscreen.

Perhaps the greatest moment of this film is Rutger Hauer’s soliloquy – not since Roy Batty’s “Tears in the Rain” speech have I been so moved.

This movie has some really fantastic one-liners – many of which I cannot say in public. Gory, vulgar, what-have-you Hobo with a Shotgun is the type of movie you want to watch when you just want something fun to watch that’s completely kickass.  So whenever you’re in the mood for over-the-top vigilante justice, give Hobo a shot – just remember, when life hands you razor blades, you make a baseball bat covered with razor blades.

Elysium

Neill Blomkamp is a director who loves his social commentary, and I respect that. I also respect his originality. For instance, with District 9, the story was relatively simple to follow, the effects were awesome, and above all, there were layers. You know where Elysium screwed up? Too much stuff too fast, in-your-face commentary, and very little development. Sorry, minor spoilers ahead – I have to get some things off my chest.

The year is 2154, and at some point the earth was plagued by disease and destruction, leaving the elite to escape Earth and build a safe-haven satellite known as Elysium. Our protagonist, Max, is an ex-con turned factory worker, with dreams of earning enough to join those up above. One day while building robo-cops, Max is exposed to a deadly amount of radiation, leaving him only five days to live. Why the robo-cops are radiated is beyond me. Coincidentally, this is also when we discover that Max’s love interest, Frey, has a daughter dying of leukemia. The technology to fix such ailments is harbored on Elysium, so Max strikes a deal with his former crime-boss guy in order to get up there and the rest is in the movie – let’s get on with it.

Aren't you supposed to be crazy-smart? How did you not see this coming?

Aren’t you supposed to be crazy-smart? How did you not see this coming?

My main issues with Elysium lie solely in the technology. Okay I lied, it’s mostly the technology and then the characters. Even though the effects were pretty good (perhaps too much slow-mo for my taste), the quantity of gadgets left much to be desired. For instance, you’re telling me that there was a way for the bad guys to read whatever technobabble was flowing into Max’s head, but you couldn’t find him hiding under a pig pen? Also if you’re harboring a dangerous man in an exoskeleton (Elysium medics, I’m talking to you now), why not remove the exoskeleton? It’s not like you don’t have that kind of technology – just saw off the bits on his arms and legs and keep the brain-bit intact. Sheesh. It’s also amazing how an exoskeleton makes you forget you have radiation poisoning and keeps you going for hours after getting stabbed in the stomach. (Yes, I know he was medicated, but we should not ignore the fact that he was deathly ill.)

Amidst all this technobabble we lose sight of our characters – which really isn’t that hard. I don’t know if it’s because Max is the everyman or because Frey was thrown in so the only female isn’t a villain, but there really wasn’t anything that interesting going on there – that whole dynamic seemed awkward and rushed. I’ll go right out and say it, I thought her daughter was annoying. There, I’m a monster. What I guess makes me more of a monster is that I want to know more about our baddies, Delacourt and Kuger.

And what was with the drunk English socialite accent, Jodie?

And what was with the drunk English socialite accent, Jodie?

Specifically, I want to know how Elysium was built – how did this sickness come to be? And why was Delacourt so evil? I understand that the rich are conditioned to believe that Earth citizens are, well, the scum of the Earth, but why so vicious? What made her tick? Are we supposed to believe that the way things are in this film are simply the way things are now with the current state of elitism and healthcare? Because that is really just such a cheap shot – I want my mind blown, dammit! Okay, let’s say it really is that basic, Earthlings are the 99% and the Elysiumites are the 1% – what does that make folks like Kruger?

Sharlto Copely is always a plus.

Sharlto Copely is always a plus.

 

 

 

I think this is why I liked Kruger so much: he was an original, terrifying character that was actually interesting. It seems like the only reason Delacourt wanted Kruger on her side is because he only lives for bloodlust, but she should have known a guy this crazy isn’t the best to have around. What I want to know is what is a South African mercenary doing with a katana? What’s the story there?

Honestly, I think because Blomkamp was so caught up making us hate rich people that he forgot to give us some lore to go on (ironic considering the budget was so huge). We’ve seen dystopian Earth before, what’s going to make this one different? Sometimes simplicity is the best option.

Considering the run-time, I sincerely believe that Elysium would have made a really cool TV series – at least then there would have been time to fix continuity errors and to develop lore, backstory and most of all, empathy.

Final Grade: C+

Terry Gilliam

Spoiler alert: the overarching theme is wonderment. Not sure if I made that clear.

More to come!

 

Watch the Auteur Series introduction here!

The Wolverine

Yeh know, I really wish Darren Aronofsky directed this one as originally planned – R-rating and everything. I mean, can you imagine how warped this would’ve gotten? Or how poignant for that matter? Too bad, didn’t happen. 

In this sixth installment of the X-Men franchise, Logan is faced with his actions from The Last Stand, i.e. haunted by visions of Jean Grey in negligee – hey, that rhymed – as well as flashbacks to his war days, mainly witnessing the bombing of Nagasaki. Coincidentally, he is called back to Japan when he learns that the officer he saved back in the day is dying and wants to say farewell. Bait-and-switch! The dying man, Yashida, is offering a chance for Logan to give up his cursed life of immortality if he helps him become immortal. Logan declines this offer, and then the plot thickens with the kidnapping of Yashida’s granddaughter and yakuza and ninjas and stuff. Oh, and this crazy Viper chick comes in and weakens Logan’s healing factor. Significantly.

And yet, Wolverine battling ninjas is not as satisfying as it ought to be.

And yet, Wolverine battling ninjas is not as satisfying as it ought to be.

This movie could have been awesome, considering that the idea of Wolverine (an anarchic anachronism of sorts) entering a land of honor and tradition has many-an-opportunity for character arcs and development. I didn’t even read the comic and I could figure this stuff out. Instead, we’re given preposterous fights on bullet trains, ostentatious ninjas, lots of rain and samurai romanticism.  Not to say that there isn’t some development, but it takes a long time to get to what little there is – I’d be distracted too if all sorts of loosely explained things were flying at me.

The practicality of a teal pleather onesie escapes me.

The practicality of a green pleather onesie escapes me.

Spoilers ahoy!

Speaking of which, I’ve got a bone to pick with the Viper/Yashida plot: how exactly is Logan’s healing factor extracted from his skeleton? Also, why not kidnap him when Viper had him all doped up to stick the bug in his body? How did those little bugs work – slow, continuous toxin release? I personally hate long villainous dialogue, but if you’re going to suspend my disbelief at least give me some sci-fi mumbo-jumbo to go on. Also, why did the Viper lady take her skin off? The consistency of her abilities kind of went over my head a little. …And are side-flips really the best method for stealthy ninja transport?

Okay, done.

I have to admit, other than the cinematography, the best part of the whole feature was Hugh Jackman’s performance. You can tell he was giving it his all in this one: prime physical condition, tortured demeanor – this is a point in Logan’s life when he is worn and weathered and wants to wander off alone like a dying dog, and he makes you believe it. It’s just a shame everything else kind of fell apart around him.

Lackluster but not totally awful, it was still better than Origins.

Final Grade: B-

(Seriously, Jackman’s performance is this movie’s saving grace – oh, and the stinger’s pretty cool. I’m stoked for Days of Future Past.)