February 25, 2004

Film Roundup - From Rats to Slashers

Let’s take a quick look at some of the films I’ve recently seen. Here’s a list of DVDs I’ve rented or borrowed:

  • Lies (1999)
  • Willard (2003)
  • Sherlock: Case of Evil (2002)
  • Spider (2003)
  • Johnny English (2003)
  • Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)
  • Irreversible (2002)
  • Cabin Fever (2003)
  • The Secret of Roan Inish (1993)
  • May (2003)
  • Spun (2003)
  • Freddy vs. Jason (2003)
  • Bruce Almighty (2003)

I’ll just keep it to a few words on each to give you my impressions of the film, rather than in-depth reviews, which are, in many cases, unwarranted.

Lies (1999)

Lies ( a.k.a Gojitmal ) was recommended to me by Netflix, and now I have to wonder what they think of me. Perhaps it was because I like Asian films. But what did I do to make them think I like Asian S&M porn?

Simply put, this is a porn film with a story thinly wrapped around it. I don’t think it quite qualifies as hardcore porn, and it’s not particularly arousing. But the main characters spend most of their time sans clothing. It becomes so repetitive, you find your mind wandering during the sex scene. The think plot is that a 19-year-old college student contacts the love interest of her friend for the purpose of convincing him to see her friend. Instead, she decides to go have sex with him. Repeatedly. Despite his marital status. And later, the rods and whips come out. And, frankly, there isn’t much more to the movie than that. Bad movie. Bad, Bad movie.

Willard (2003)

I’d recently tried to watch the original version of Willard and had fallen asleep, so the 2003 update pleasantly surprised me. As with the original this is the story of a man trapped by his elderly mother and the legacy of his father. He befriends some rats, and they become the outward manifestation of his inward anger and frustration.

What I liked about this film was the performance Crispin Glover gives as Willard, and the rat special effects. The story is not just a monster film. The rats are heavy with symbolism, waiting for you to interpret it I’d recommend Willard to folks who like quirky horror.

Case of Evil (2002)

This was originally a special on cable, but I missed it. The ads were intriguing, so when I heard there was a DVD, I rented it.

This is hardly compelling as a Sherlock Holmes story. Yes, all the elements are there, but the story pales beside even Arthur Conan Doyle’s worst offering. Skip this, Sherlock fans. The presence of Gabrielle Anwar, James D’Arcy and Vincent D’Onofrio should not sway you. And where can I get an apostrophe for my name?

Spider (2002)

Spider is an intriguing film on the subject of mental illness. David Cronenberg puts his odd talents to work directing this film, and some of Spider’s confusion becomes your own as you try to piece together what is in his mind and what is in the world.

Ralph Fiennes stars as a man prematurely released from a mental hospital, living with some childhood scars. Back in his old neighborhood, the memories of the past return, comingled with the present. His ghosts are the more substantial kind, not apparitions but apprehensions.

Miranda Richardson deserves kudos for her role as Spider’s mother in flashbacks, and Fiennes does an excellent job conveying Spider’s disturbance with hardly any dialogue. Thumbs up.

Johnny English (2003)

Not even Rowan Atkinson could keep me awake in this. So I can hardly give it a complete review. Stick to Mr. Bean is my recommendation.

Kung Pow: Enter the Fist (2002)

Sure, Steve Oedekerk has made a really dumb movie here. But it’s dumb, silly and fun. If you like goofy films, Oedekerk’s odd melding of old kung fu movies (with a heavy dash of himself in the leading role) may be the dessert you’re looking for. If you don’t like silliness, then this is not for you.

Irreversible (2002)

This film probably deserves a long review, but I have little interest in writing it. It was easily one of the more disturbing films I’d ever seen, and its structure as a backwards-told-story was nothing but confusing. If you’ve heard anything about this film, you know that Monica Bellucci is brutally assaulted and you have to watch the entire thing. It wasn’t clear to me what point the film was making, other than “you can’t turn back the clock” and “violence begets violence.” If I want to be uncomfortable, next time I’ll just wear a hairshirt.

Cabin Fever (2003)

Cabin Fever was made by people like the ones I went to school with. They love horror films. This is a sincere attempt to make a horror film different than slasher films, but with the impact of the first Friday the 13th. It doesn’t quite achieve that, but there are a couple of laughs along with the scares that make this film worthy of your time if you follow cheesy horror like I do. The mainstream can skip it.

Look for the director as that creepy dog-walking hipster, and stay to the end to get the final goofy racial statement.

The Secret of Roan Inish (1993)

Roan Inish may be too slow for some of today’s kids, and that’s too bad. The story is uplifting, the characters believable and the countryside is beautiful. I watched this with my 6-year-old daughter and it gave us a chance to sit together, relax and slow down. It’s like hearing a yarn told by a wizened Irish fellow. You can read a synopsis on this film elsewhere, but I’m telling you that it’s endearing. Perhaps shy of a classic, but worthy of any child’s attention.

May (2003)

Another film with a mentlaly ill “protagoinst.” May does not fit in with society. Her lazy eye and strange manner has made her an outsider all her life.Will she finally find love? Not bloody likely, as this is a horror film. But the horror doesn’t show up until the end.

This isn’t a cheesy horror film to watch with your friends and cheer at. This is a cheesy horrorish indy film to watch alone, to actually feel really bad for May, and then to be resigned to the fact that the killing has to start sometime. The first 3/4 of this film are a good psychological character study—much better than Willard. Good enough, in fact, that the denouement just seems cheap and unnecessary. May is worth viewing as a curiosity, but you’ll be disappointed before it ends. Get this director together with Crispin Glover and a good script, then call me.

Spun (2003)

It’s Requiem For A Dream on speed. Almost literally.

Freddy vs. Jason (2003)

Skip it. Jason X was much better for sheer cheesiness alone. Fvs.J leaves you thinking “Isn’t it better when it’s “Freddy against the stupid people” and Jason against the stupid people?” That’s what we want to see—not villains battling it out. We want to see people making stupid mistakes that run them afoul of the killers.

Bruce Almighty (2003)

Nothing is going to allow me to forgive BJ’s Wholesale for carrying a mountain of this film and not one Chapelle’s Show DVD. Even though I already reviewed this film, I felt I had to mention that.

Posted by James at February 25, 2004 10:00 AM
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I thought R. Lee Ermey was also excellent in Willard. It was a good cast all around, but Ermey was *very* convincing as the boss from hell.

BTW, thanks to New Line Entertainment, you can send an anonymous "Rat Pack" nastygram to your loved ones: www.tearhimup.com.

Posted by: julie at February 25, 2004 10:15 AM

Thank you for watching most of those movies so I don't have to.

Posted by: Mike at February 25, 2004 12:50 PM

No problem, Mike. I can't help myself. You may as well benefit from my time served.

Posted by: James at February 25, 2004 2:01 PM

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