When this adeptly plotted, photographed, performed, scored and directed Friday night shift at the Chickwich fast food joint is stripped down to the retail management team modular training video that it is, a prank call has escalated to sexual assault and we are left with something that teaches us how to do the right by witnessing so much of the wrong, only then to go deeper beneath the last veil of personal privacy to find a tautly focused, unrelentingly discomforting foundation spanked into submission by an authoritarian psychological exploration of humanity.
The Thing v. The Thing
Somewhere in Antarctica exists two sizable problems that plague 2011’s The Thing; effects and music. It is a remake, wrapped in a prequel, that fails to successfully mimic the DNA of its source or stand on its own digitized legs. The source material here is of course 1982’s The Thing, which features two sizable strong arms that help propel it into the hall of fame of greatest films of all time; effects and music. Where practical effects suspend my disbelief and thensome, digital effects do not, especially when it comes to creature effects, most notably bloody ones. Despite a few throwbacks to its source material, Beltrami’s music of 2011’s Thing is overscored and generic in contrast to Morricone and Carpenter’s original, sparse and deeply atmospheric score ‘82’s Thing. In respect to these two film components alone, the difference between the 1982 and 2011 Things is cataclysmic. They both feature cool creature designs and excellent actors, but only one of them features John Carpenter at the apex of his career. His film is filled with bleak, isolated atmosphere, populated by real people, that react as real people might react in such bleak circumstances, confronted by such bizarre horrific happenings. 2011’s Thing is peppered with interesting ideas that I would have loved the filmmakers to explore more; a scene where the lead gazes into the starry night, and a scene of sudden and surprising violence that kills off several of the team, to name a few. But in the end, it is not a simple earring or cavity filling that identifies who’s who here, it is a blow torch wielding, balls to wall blood test that reveals The Thing as a monster not be mimicked with.
Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (2011)
Prerequisite reading to finding the fiery path of pleasure with this material are Neveldine/Talyor’s extremely fantastic ‘Crank’ and ‘Crank: High Voltage’. These two films demonstrate the kinetic, creative, unrestrained hell force of the directorial duo. Now channel that hellacious power toward a script that doesn’t matter, and then Cage the beast inside a pg-13 prison. Against all odds, and against the brutal, critic, criminally panned grain, it works. It’s not perfect, but they crackle their fiery chains against the MPAA walls in true Neveldine/Taylor charisma, style, attitude, and technical flare. The duo take a raging flaming piss on the scripts contrived sentimental moments, turning a failure on paper into something to smile with, not at. The action is sharp as a tac, the cinematography is one of kind, the actors do their job well, and the wine tastes… not bad. The duo have proven they have no bounds when bound by an MPAA rating limitation. With that said, besides their apparent inability to form a formidable foe on celluloid, Neveldine and Taylor have made a kinetic, ‘B’ grade film that had the potential to be ‘A’ grade material had the two been let off their leashes to roller blade a solid R rated Ghost Rider to the adult masses of main stream cinemas.
As a fiery prophet denouncing the hypocrisy of our times, inspired by the real life on-air suicide of newscaster Christine Chubbuck, this film is mad as hell. It’s also smart as hell, not to mention timeless as hell. It quite accurately and most relevantly criticizes the historical transition of television news broadcasting from ethical/civic/responsibility driven journalism/news reporting to unethical/unintelligent/sensational/irrelevant info-tainment/entertainment news. That transition, as ‘Network’ comments, was driven by television executives’ lust for corporate growth. As Fred Friendly put it, “it’s an irony that television makes more money doing its worst than doing its best.” Remove the heart of journalism from the body of news broadcasting, and what remains is a moral-less, responsibility-less, ethics-less “profit center” whose purpose is no longer informing or educating. It’s purpose is money making. Period. Fred Friendly knew it. And ‘Network’ is mad as hell about it.
Grade B++ // C-
Despite minor disagreements with some of the writing and editing of this film, I would classify this as ‘B++’ material had it not been so grossly over-scored with un-fitting, un-interesting, un-complimentary, un-atmospheric, shallow, redundant, un-original, completely distracting and un-engrossing music. As it constantly plays throughout, the score had me constantly removed from the film. The only real moment of silence was used to accent a cliche jump scare. When you consider a fundamental sensory breakdown of film as one part visual, and the other part audio, then this film exercises a dichotomy of extremes in success and failure respectively. With that said, there are a lot of interesting ideas here, wrapped up in mediocre writing, elevated by outstanding performances, accented seamlessly by perfect sound and visual effects, chopped together sometimes oddly with often questionable editing, all totally impossible to open up vulnerably to and become absorbed by due to one of the most clashing and experiential blocking musical scores to kill a film. Love Alien. Love Blade Runner. And just because Prometheus’s musical body has been severely damaged, doesn’t mean it’s not to be loved. It is. But only under the terms and conditions of a love/hate relationship.
Rango beautifully tells the tale of a desert town experiencing an economic crisis whose only hope is a chameleon experiencing an identity crisis. As the audience awaits, thirsty for adventure, an ironic, unexpected event enters the stage, propelling the much anticipated hero into conflict. Destiny points the most irregular Sanjuro in the direction of a nearby, nearly bankrupt town called Dirt, simultaneously embarking the soon to be Deputy on a quest for enlightenment. Once in town, the hero with no name adopts the moniker Rango to satisfy the inquiring denizens of Dirt and thanks to kismet’s kindness to Rango, he manages to earn the trust of the Dirtonians, a people in desperation, being pushed to brink of chaos through the doors of an economic crisis, where water is the monetary currency and the holy spigot has been bled dry. As the mayor embraces the march of progress, he leverages the privileges of power while Rango is more than willing to play the role of the latte drinking lonely constable, toting the 10 gallon hat of law and order, symbolizing hope. The aquatic conundrum of Dirt threads Rango’s own personal quest for identity and knits a strong moral banner you can take to the bank, backed by the spirit of the west: No man can walk out on his own story.
Lake Mungo (2008)
An extremely spooky supernatural drama and an extraordinary work in the art of restraint, this is no horror film, but rather an elegant, mature ghost story.
5 Centimeters Per Second (2007)
A snow storm kinds no apology to a 13 year old man who journeys the night by train. He’s traveling the seemingly endless distance to re-unite with the deepest love he will know for all his adolescence, young adulthood, and if this film has its way, the rest of his life. The short visit ends, years pass and he unwittingly acquires the affections of another, which he is unable to reciprocate as his eye is constantly distanced beyond current affairs, concretely lodged on what lies less in Tokyo, but more in the past. Trains delay, rockets launch, dreams dawn something of spectacle, and a Love reigns over this man’s life by language of color, light, notes, snowfall, unsent txts, cosmos, rail crossings, and cherry blossoms, all in infinite detail, and all rather oddly climaxing into a J-pop music video, that speaks specifically to J-culture sensibilities, potentially distracting to foreigners, and as such, absolutely forgivable, the music number is the coda to an entirely unique, universally relatable human emotional experience, an experience that brilliantly illuminates colors I did not know even existed.
Grade B+ Grade: A
Who’s laughing now??!!!! I’m laughing, if not smiling, for about 90 minutes.
Edit: After further review, the god’s honest truth reveals itself, chasing me around the house, a haunting cameraman insisting perspective, kills off my girlfriend in a no-fuckin-around six minutes, slams me into a tree, geysers me with blood, saws off my hand, and while laughing in a fit of my own insanity, in the name of Henrietta, dead before dawn, truth be told, I realize this is grade A entertainment.
Jef Costello is a pro assassin. Lives alone, quietly, minimally. Employs a caged bird as low tech security. Smokes his inner demons into tranquility with cigarettes as he lies in the bed of a sparsely furnished efficiency. Prim threads suit his personality, as Melville buttons up this film from head to toe with equal calm and uncompromising precision. Jef’s latest work is derailed when a stunning jazz pianist becomes witness to the crime. A single thread snags, whereby we follow samurai cinematography capturing deeply layered compositions of Jef’s deft footwork as he dances us through an unforgettable line-up of interrogations, car theft, and surveillance shadows, chronicling the spiral unraveling of a man carrying the entire film in relentless Bushido form.