Thursday, April 14, 2011

A pair of horror flicks.

Based on a five blood drop scale.

Horror’s seen a return to the graphic violence that permeated the post-Vietnam years thanks in part to the inexplicable birth of torture porn; gutbucket splatter; gorno. Wolf Creek is probably the apotheosis of the genre, with Eli Roth’s Hostel being at the low end of the rotting totem pole.

To have all the elements of a gorno movie you need:

1. Nihilistic central character(s)
2. The drawn-out torture of a helpless victim
3. A secluded environment cut off from all forms of communication
4. Gory, misanthropic imagery
5. A dehumanizing, nasty and/or misogynist plotline

Let’s review BITTER FEAST, the cruel tale of a swanky food critic, a crabby celebrity chef and a tucked-away chateau:

Numero twa: Sure Chef Cranky Pants ignores a few established laws when he kidnaps an antagonistic food critic and forces him to cook for his life, but his contemptuous social ramblings are frivolous and foggy.

Dos: Ebert’s culinary equivalent is knocked around a bit, but the torture sequences are rather conservative by today’s standards.

Three: Chef Crabby Britches takes his critical nemesis to an estate deep in the woods, but it’s easily discovered by both a PI and the critic’s wife.
Four: See dos.
Five: Lifeless, uninspired story occupied by static, flat characters.

Overall: BITTER FEAST is like a Tuscan Shrimp with Penne minus the pasta. It’s Chicken Cacciatore minus the sauce. It’s Rigatoni Primavera minus the vegetables.

I only hope director Joe Maggio doesn’t body snatch me and force me to load three mags of 35mm for my unfavorable comments.


So you thought Michael Fassbender was a tough guy in Eden Lake? Well excuse me while I top off your Caramel Macchiato. You were benumbed by Fassbender’s manliness in 300? Pardon me while I find you the next showtime for The Sound of Music. You were narcotized by Micheal F’s brawniness in Centurion? Well, actually your reaction would be justified; he was pretty bad ass in Centurion.

In BLOOD CREEK, the tale of man seeking revenge against a satanic nazi zombie who entombed him for the purpose of consuming his blood, Fassbender portrays an awesome vampiric villain.

To say director Joel Schumacher has, ahem, Batman & Robin, churned out a few, er, St. Elmo’s Fire, lumps of excrement throughout his career would be an understatement. However, as is customary for fans of horror, I have an extremely selective memory. I lack the sense of mental vision to see beyond that 1986 gem, THE LOST BOYS. BLOOD CREEK’s story is a bit silly and the movie is hampered by poor CGI, yet I found myself really diggin’ it. The stark, black and white cinematography used to depict the West Virginia farmhouse circa 1936 is unexpected in a film titled BLOOD CREEK. Beams of light and clouds of dust navigate their way through floor beams and canopies to chilling effect.

Though the makeup donned by Fassbender’s undead minion veers toward camp, it ultimately fills viewers with fear. Likewise, the mythology surrounding the character is a bit hokey, yet is fun enough to propel the film beyond spam-in-a-cabin status.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Win Win

Wrestling is one of our earliest sports. It requires not only physical strength, but also emotional and mental toughness. As an individual sport, it affords no room for excuses while providing an opportunity for supreme satisfaction. Plus, it is the purest, most primitive means of settling a score. Educational merit and social status mean little as long as I can kick your ass.

Which brings us to WIN WIN, a sickly sweet treat of a film about the exploits of a hapless attorney (Mike played by Paul Giamatti) who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach. In a desperate attempt to keep his practice, he agrees to take on the guardianship of an elderly client. But when the feeble ol’ chap’s drug-addicted daughter and athletically-gifted grandson knock at the door, Mike’s life is thrown into disarray.

Giamatti locks a full nelson around the role and delivers a sensational performance. We’re not asked to judge his character, who is equal parts generosity and licentiousness, but rather to impartially observe his comically painful situation.

Director Tom McCarthy slaps a tight cradle around a story that is quirky, compassionate and inspirational – the type of movie that forces you to leave the theater with a smile on your face.

It’s a pinning achievement; a technical fall of a picture; a slam dunk. Sorry, wrong sport. But still, the first great film of 2011.