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Tusk

Okay, so remember last week or whenever I posted my podcast-ical fangasm about Tusk? Well, Crom was kind and this limitedly-released feature graced a small theater just a skip-hop-and-a-jump away from yours truly. It was my companion and I, and a handful of others – maybe at most ten patrons total on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Two people walked out during the third act. Clearly, this was not meant for them.

Me, on the other hand? Let’s just say I had a hell of a time.

Granted, my fandom of Smodcast and Kevin Smith films sent my little heart a-flutter, so am I biased? Absolutely. This doesn’t mean I still can’t remain totally objective about the thing.

Podcasting!

Podcasting!

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) are the obnoxious hosts of the infamous Not-See Party – a podcast in which Wallace travels and interviews strange folk and weirdos alike. Wallace’s latest expedition takes him to scenic Manitoba, but when his planned interview goes, well, awry, Wallace is desperate to make the most of his time.

He stumbles across an ad posted by the hermitic Howard Howe (Michael Parks), a retired adventurer looking for a lodger – a perfect interviewee for a podcast. However, Howe reveals a much more insidious plan. He ends up turning Wallace into a walrus. What, was that really a spoiler?

Fortunately for folks at home, the internet has been pretty hush-hush about slipping pictures of the monstrosity – that thing’s nightmare fuel, man.

So here's an adorable baby walrus in a tub instead. You're welcome.

So here’s an adorable baby walrus in a tub instead.
You’re welcome.

Browsing around, I’ve read some harsh remarks about the pointless, gratuitous nature of Tusk. Admittedly, the tone is kind of all over the place, and the ending is sad and empty, I don’t think that the film is necessarily unenjoyable. Again, I am a fan and knew what to expect: a satisfyingly effed-up adventure. Right, right gotta be objective  –

I need those schematics.

I need those schematics on my walls.

I did have a couple of gripes, after all, the devil’s in the details. Is it weird that I wanted to see more of the suit-making process? For instance, what was it filled with? How many other skins were needed (was that even the method)? How did he fabricate the flippers?Also some aging on the suit would have been glorious – maybe an infection here or there, maybe some signs of healing – something! It works for immediate shock value (I know I first cringed looking at it), but after a while the magic seemed to fade.

Justin Long was great. Despite the fact that his character was an annoying ass-hat, his tormented cries and pained post-walrus expressions were impressively disturbing, proving that no man deserved what this guy had just undergone.

Really, everyone gave an impressive performance (so glad to see crazy Michael Parks again). However, returning to the film’s tonal crisis, I feel as if our Guy Lapointe (Johnny Depp) teetered a bit. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when Depp hides in a character, but there were times when this character was uncomfortably cartoony, like a drunk Clouseau wannabe (maybe less bumbling). Though in retrospect, I think he grows on you. I mean, I am definitely looking forward to seeing more of this character in Yoga Hosers.

In short, Tusk is a strange tale made on a whim – a labor of love purely for the fans. The story may be paper-thin and there isn’t a “point” per se, but you know what? It’s an enjoyable, messed up little ride, and I want more. Come for the weirdness, stay for the performances. Personally, I cannot wait for the rest of Kevin Smith’s True North Trilogy.

Final Grade: B

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Netfix: Berberian Sound Studio

When I first saw this trailer for Berberian Sound Studio, I was completely enthralled. I waited and waited, then procrastinated a bit, and finally caught it on Netflix. I think it’s fair to say that I was not disappointed.

Built on the mythos of 1970s Italian giallo films and the visceral nature of sound, Berberian Sound Studio conveys a beautifully nightmarish atmosphere, blending the lines between fiction and reality by playing with elements such as entrapment and gradual disillusionment of time. The audience also never actually sees any footage from the film itself – much like Pontypool, it’s what you don’t see that frightens you.

In addition, we also witness a fantastic transformation of character, considering what we have to work with. I say this because we really don’t know much about Gilderoy (Toby Jones) to begin with, other than he’s meek, polite, lives with his mom, and is a fantastic sound engineer (or at least good enough to be brought in by an enthusiastic director). Suddenly he is brought in to a completely foreign environment, working on a genre he’s never approached before. Despite being disturbed by the content of the film, he finds solace in his work – until he’s forced to take part in the foley work. From this point on things get increasingly hostile, as well as bizarre. As foretold in the synopsis, fiction and reality intertwine, and Gilderoy is thrust into his own private hell – inevitably mutating from witness to perpetrator.

There will be produce.

There will be produce.

The meta nature of Berberian Sound Studio is something to admire. Perhaps it’s because I really enjoy films about filmmaking, but this one particularly struck my fancy when it came to audience immersion. We’re trapped with Gilderoy in his reality, or lack thereof – so are these people really as rude as they seem to be? Considering some of the actresses’ woes, yes, probably, but it leaves Gilderoy’s interactions up to interpretation for the most part.

With its seamless editing and intangibly stirring qualities, Berberian Sound Studio is a film you simply have to experience.

The Good
Finally, a movie about sound design and engineering that is entirely enthralling!

The Bad
I really wish the footage we do get to see didn’t look like it was shot hi-def with an added film-grain.

The Ugly
This is a film that speaks solely in subjective terms, therefore, we’re only dealing with pure human nastiness.

WYSHW: Red State

The Westboro Baptist Church has been the subject of much anger and controversy – duly so, considering these pious cretins have gone to the point of brainwashing children in order to protest funerals in the name of “God hates Fags.” This fascinating bunch is also the subject of many-a documentary and exclusive interview, not to mention inspiration for fictional backlash.

Enter chatterbox, filmmaker and all-around groovy cat Kevin Smith, a man not unfamiliar with religious satire. Inspired by leader Fred Phelps’ fanaticism, Smith drafted Red State, a tale in which a group of horny teens get caught up with some dastardly fundamentalists. Shenanigans most brutal ensue as the boys try to escape this backwoods fortress.

Pictured: shenanigans.

Pictured: shenanigans.

Red State is a pretty wicked experience. And an impressive one at that, considering that no one wanted to touch this picture. Of course, with controversial topics comes much well, controversy, so needless to say opinions on this flick were mixed. Filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino and Ben Affleck hailed the film, whereas many-a-critic were felt that they were either bored, grossed out, or didn’t care for being preached at. As for me? Well obviously I think it’s worth at least checking out.

Showtime.

Showtime.

Frankly, I really dug this story. Perhaps I got a little caught up in the topical nature of figuratively attacking groups such as the Westboros (or in this case, the Five Points Trinity Church), but there’s something primally satisfying about a bloodbath of a showdown. And considering we’re dealing with a story of escape and survival – complete with sudden, heat of the moment turns – that just makes the situation all the more captivating.

I think my favorite aspect of this film, other than the concept itself, is the performances. Veteran actor Michael Parks nails this role as Abin Cooper – a man of charisma and tyranny. Personally, my favorite kind of villain is one I can love to hate, and Parks does not disappoint. Likewise, John Goodman and Melissa Leo give solid performances as the good-guy agent and the lady you want to punch in the face, respectively.

Intense, gritty, with a bit of dark humor tossed in there – Red State is worth a go if you’re in the mood for a decent shoot-em-up horror. Personally, I would have liked to see how the original ending would have turned out, but I think what they went with does the job nicely. Next time on What You Should Have Watched ….mmm Tom Hardy.

Prisoners

God-fearing survivalist suits him.

God-fearing survivalist suits him.

During a Thanksgiving outing, two young girls, Joy Birch and Anna Dover, go missing from their quiet suburb. As days go by, the police are forced to release the only suspect due to a lack of evidence. The resulting demand for answers forces the family members to descend into their own private hells. Desperate for resolve, Keller Dover (Hugh Jackman) takes it upon himself to do the unthinkable in order to find his daughter. Meanwhile, Detective Loki (Jake Gyllenhaal) also breaks to the point of obsession as he faces the guilt wrought by these suffering families.

Prisoners is simply a solid, visceral film. The labyrinth motif makes its way through every facet of the story, to the point where it almost makes you want to throw up. Almost, considering how the concepts transcends through the literal and internal. And I think it’s fair to say that it’s not just mazes for the sake of mazes: we’re talking about some twisted psyches here – which leads me to the presentation of the film.

Dano plays this character with both sympathy and malice. Dude's underrated.

Dano plays this character with in a manner which earns both sympathy and malice. Dude’s underrated.

I found the plot structure admirable, considering that it does not play out like the average kidnapping suspense. The pace is slow (sometimes a little too slow), building and calculative, and you essentially only get the story from Loki or Duller’s perspective (okay, except for this one time), which better draws the viewer into this descent.

I found the story (as well as its finer details) not only to be original, but also believable. For instance, when Keller tortures suspect Alex Jones (Paul Dano), the torture is sloppy, brutal, and honestly frightening. Keller is practically a living portrait of desperation. Furthermore, we’re met with a new breed of killer – not just a rehashing of real life horrors.

Gripping and unapologetic, Prisoners is a fantastic suspense feature. And though the payoff isn’t as explosive as the usual American thriller (I just wanted a bit more exposition – maybe I’m just greedy),  the original mythos and the momentum of the piece is something truly admirable.

Final Grade: A