Saturday, August 13, 2011

When it rains it pours: HYR Movie extravaganza!

No time to waste, I'm launching a fusillade of movie reviews!

Insidious (2010) - Dir James Wan.  
I wasn't expecting much from the folks behind the Saw series (which I view with contempt usually reserved for Insane Clown Posse) but I must say I was very surprised by the quality of Insidious.  Let me get the bad out of the way first: it's predictable, there scares stop 2/3 of way through the movie, a couple of moments of shaky camera work annoyed me (as always), and in the end felt like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone or a watered-down version of Poltergeist.  On the upside: there were a few moments where the movie scared the fucking bejeezus out of me - genuinely (the last time I remember a scare like that was during The Unborn) scared,  the casting was pretty good - I like Patrick Wilson (the guy from Hard Candy) and Rose Byrne were solid parental characters, Lynne Shaye and Barabara Hershey were highlights - Lynne Shaye particularly nailed the part, and through the first half of the movie I was seriously creeped out.  Also the opening credits were really well done, none of this pseudo-Se7en crap, it was very smooth and neatly done.

Insidious was a pretty solid creeper that went in a different direction than what I was expecting. Leigh Whannell's script moved along nicely until the third act clunk where the movie strayed too far into Poltergeist country.  Whannell sets up a reasonably convincing  family dynamic though it was impossible to suspend disbelief long enough to accept a schoolteacher and a stay-at-home mom (who is a musician taking time off for her family) have enough money to buy the home they live in.  Well, maybe they invested well and...fuck I don't want to think about the housing market and economy during a horror movie.  It's worth seeing and considering October is right around the corner you'll want to add it to your stack of horror movies.  I wouldn't watch it again but it's definitely worth giving a fair shake.

The Rite (2011)  Dir Mikael Hafstrom
One of my fellow horror movie buddies brought this over the other day (along with Insidious and Rango).  I didn't know much about it except Anthony Hopkins, exorcisms, Catholics, yadda yadda yadda, it's gotta be better than most of exorcism movies that been crapped out over the last decade.  Basically The Rite is Catholics, exorcism, Anthony Hopkins, Colin O'Donoghue, Rutger Hauer (but in a good way), and off we go.  I have to admit that this was a solid movie, not exactly a frightfest but a really well done movie.  The denouement kind of fizzled but what exactly was supposed to happen?  A parade and a pie fight?  The Rite might not dethrone The Exorcist but it certainly stands head and shoulders above the Satanic endeavours of the last decade.

Side note:  Though she doesn't say anything, wears a simple black dress, and is only on screen in support of another side character (which is a god damn shame considering her acting career), Maria Grazia Cucinotta is stunning.  What can I say?  I'm a sucker for raven-haired smoldering hot Italian beauties.

Rango (2011)
Tim Burton and Johnny Depp makes me want to puke.  Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp work but the whole pirate thing makes me unhappy (I fucking hate pirates - I take a British Naval stance towards them) but Verbinski and Depp working on Rango = fucking awesome.  If you've seen the preview you know exactly what the movie is about, I don't have to recap events here.  What the previews don't show you is the complete (in some ways predictable) insanity of Rango, the brilliance of the animation, the sheer quality of production, and the amount of enjoyment I had watching it.  Now I'm not shitting all over myself with Pixar idolatry (aka HYR loves Monsters, Inc, Ratatouille, and The Incredibles) over Rango but I think that was puts the movie apart from the Pixar pack.  It's thematic qualities and at times brilliant humor really worked for me.  Sure there are the expected pop culture references and inside jokes but there were a few moments where the creators just went abruptly sideways.  For example a tired use of Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries" suddenly is turned into jug band "they didn't start chasin us until you put on that get away music" greatness.  While I can barely stand Depp's cartoonish acting (75% of the time) in an animated form it works, it's almost as if the elasticity of a digitally rendered lizard was made for Depp to inhabit.

I'm buying this as soon as I can, that's how much I liked Rango.

Sniper (1993)  Dir Luis Llosa
Yeah I'm givin up some review space for 1993 Tom Berenger/Billy Zane vehicle Sniper.  What?  Sniper was one of those movies from the early 90s that form part of a core movie experience for many of my peers and myself.  1993 also saw the release of Hard Target and The Last Action Hero.  Sniper is currently on hulu.com for free and since I had nothin else to do and I was sober and bored I said fuck it.  Y'know, it was fucking bad ass, like shit this pretty good.  I started getting all into it and I realized that Tom Berenger gets a bad rap (I know Billy Zane gets a bad rap but I don't care I still love him.  I love you Billy Zane!).  Most of the people who remember Tom Berenger equate him first with 1996's The Substitute and then maybe Someone to Watch Over Me (1987), Major League (1989), and Sniper (hur hur hur that's the one with Billy Zane in it I hear you say - fuck you Billy Zane rules).  Tom Berenger's Gunnery Sgt Thomas Beckett (two T's the other Thomas Becket Archbishop of Canterbury assassinated in 1170AD only has one T) was one hell of a character, the way Berenger plays him you can't tell if Beckett is a total sociopath or simply trying to maintain and somehow hold onto his humanity.  It's an interesting role compared to Berenger in Platoon.  Definitely worth the rewatch.

Sukiyaki Western Django (2007)  Dir Takashi Miike
I'm just gonna pour hate-o-rade on this fucker in the following order:
  1. Fucking god damn Tarantino shows his fucking mug in the first section of this movie and I have no idea what the hell he said because he spoke in this wretched faux "Western" drawl mixed with some kind of racist interpretation of a Japanese narrator from one of the movies he is constantly ripping off.  The hyper-stylized set would have been interesting to look at except for the fact I kept fighting the urge to instantly turn off the movie the moment I saw and heard Captain Self-Fellator.
  2. The accent wasn't racist after all indeed the entire cast - Japanese speak English with the same unintelligible garbled accent.  With no option for subtitles I couldn't figure out what the fuck they were saying.  Not that it really mattered because...
  3. After about slogging thirty minutes into this movie I said fuck it, I can't put up with this shit.  I might have eaten it up with a spoon ten years ago but now...jesus.  It was just tedious.  So I ended up watching - 
American Yakuza (1993) Dir Frank A Cappelo
Yeah I know I was expecting a complete dog with a title like that too.  Then the movie starts up and the credits are rolling and I see Viggo Mortensen, Ryo Ishibashi, and Michael Nouri...nani desu-ka?  

Now before we go any further I will tell all you HYR followers that I fucking love Yakuza movies.  Some people love Mafia movies.  Some people love Russian Mafia movies.  Some people love Triad movies.  Me personally, I give the most love to the 8-9-3.  I grew up loving movies like Black Rain and Rising Sun and once I really began my exploration of Asian cinema i just went kind of apeshit for the genre.  That being said...

American Yakuza didn't really suck at all, in fact, it was pretty awesome.  The plot is pretty cut and dry and the movie moves on rails to a fairly predictable conclusion but it's one of those movies that Viggo saves just by being Viggo.  I really dug the rapport Viggo and Ryo build, like wow these guys actually respect one another.  Plus Viggo is dreamy mcdreamy.

Definitely worth watching if you're in the market for an actioner or if you want to watch a movie with Viggo you haven't seen before.

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