In Bruges (2008)

Directed by Martin McDonagh

Starring Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes

I have to lead the review with the stated prejudice I went into this film with, a general dislike for Colin Farrell’s previous body of work. Nothing against the actor, it seems that the majority of his roles revolved around playing some egotistical, over-confident, one-dimensional tough guy with a chip on his shoulder. I find it hard to relate to that kind of character or harbor any shared empathy. Which is probably why I liked this departure from form on his part.

In Bruges is the story of two hitmen hiding out in Belgium after the younger inexperienced Farrell accidentally kills an innocent child. Immature and unsure how to deal the guilt he’s feeling, Farrell attempts to quiet his conscious with women, drugs, and drink but his sins eventually overcome. Coincidental encounters set against the backdrop of a film set with a Boschian theme adds to internal torment the protagonist is undergoing. Strong supporting character performances from Gleeson and Fiennes add a whimsical morality that make the final act come together in a very satisfying way.

This film is beautiful, shot in a storybook town in Belgium, with lots of subtext and allegorical meaning. It’s funny, tense, heart-warming, and sometimes sad. The only gripe I have with it would be the odd insert of the American dwarf actor who’s comedic scenes seem to detract from the momentum of the script and never really add much to the plot except for the payoff.

Teeth (2007)

 

Directed by Mitchel Lichtenstein

Starring Jess Wiexler 

Ok, you can easily piece together the premise of this movie from the trailer.  But what you can’t appreciate is the expert hand that delivers a high concept idea like this in such a technically competant, skillfully acted, and craftly written way.  Adverb nazis eat your heart out.

All kidding aside this is the best quirky horror movie since May, previously reviewed by Sir Dantasia, viewed by both of us, probably on the prodding of AICN recommended geek movie pundits as Harry Knowles.  I got the word on this one from Mark Kermode initially, but Dan told me to check it out after his viewing.  In the vein of Saved! and Masters of Horror’s Jenifer, this film delivers the goods (by the way, to fully appreciate Jenifer, rent the DVD and watch the deleted scenes, D’Argento fans eat your **** out).

This movie could not have achieved its intended affect without the talent and skill of actress Jess Weixler and guiding mind of Mitchell Lichenstien.  Jess had an amazing way of delivering the performance required of such a tongue-in-cheek role as the protagonist of this movie.  She handily shifted her acting between surreal and sublime so expertly that the role was completely believable.  The direction cannot be ignored also, because I’ve seen this kind of genre blundered before and the overall vision of this project is evident and laudable.  The cinematography (Wolfgang Held) should also recieve praise for such parsinium shots as Dawn’s ride back to her home against the backdrop of the nuclear silos and the creative disguise of “suggestive material.”

I pray we see more of these two artisans in future Hollywood cannon as they both have command of their professions.  Big applause for a highly entertaining, comedic, and satisfying visceral horror romp.

Brazil (1985)

Directed by: Terry Gilliam

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond, Ian Holm, Bob Hoskins, Kim Greist

Awards: Nominated for Oscar for Best Art Direction and Best Writing/Screenplay and Hugo for BestDramatic Presentation(1986), Won BAFTA for Best Production Design and Best Special Visual Effects (1986)

Self described as 1984 1/2, Brazil is Terry Gilliam’s take on an Orwellian vision of a retro-future. The government controls everything as the populace is held hostage to overpowering bureaucracy. Sam Lowry is an everyday man who gets tangled up in the wrongful death of a man mistakenly killed for being a suspected terrorist. As he tries to unravel what has occurred, he crosses paths with a woman who he has been dreaming about, gets branded a terrorist himself, and soon becomes a victim of the system he has long been a part of.

Brazil, like most of Terry Gilliam films, is a dark comedy wonderfully realized through art direction and style. Sets made up of old buildings retrofitted with ductwork, typewriters and old televisions converted to computers, and a society that is obsessed with the perception of image are all just a few of things that make up this fantasy. Gilliam suggests in the commentary that everything that occurs in the film was based on real life events during the eighties and was meant as a social commentary about overindulgence and corruption in America. I think it is safe to say that the film rings even more true given the current state of our political government and lifestyle. Everything is mocked in the movie ranging from obsessions with plastic surgery, slave-like devotion to remedial jobs, and blind obedience to overbearing laws and regulation without question.

Notoriously known for having trouble on his films, Brazil was no less a mess for Terry Gilliam. The film was held back for a year from being released in the United States due to Universal re cutting the film for a happier ending. Gilliam fought back by showing the film without the studio’s consent for two weeks at in LA to movie critics and film students. Pressure from them and rumors of attempted pre-release Oscar nominations eventually forced the studio to put out the original version of Gilliam’s film. While the visual effects are somewhat dated by today’s standards, the film is still fun to watch and serves as a chilling warning to a future that may yet come. All from a film that came about from a wish by Gilliam to do a movie where a man losing his mind ends up being a happy ending.

Other Notable Films by this Director: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Time Bandits (1981), Twelve Monkeys (1995)

-Dantasia

Heathers (1989)

Directed by: Michael Lehmann

Starring: Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Shannen Doherty, Lisanne Falk, Kim Walker

Awards: Independent Spirit Award for Best First Feature (1990) and nominated Grand Jury Prize at Sundance (1989)

The 80’s were a magical time. Big hair, synsthesized music, and let’s not forget shoulder pads. A lot of bad movies also came out of the 80’s, but thankfully, there was also a few great ones such as the film Heathers. This dark comedy, written by Daniel Waters, tells the story of four high school friends who rule the school as the popular clique. Heather, Heather, and Heather use intimidation and sex appeal to get what ever they want while Veronica (Winona Ryder) is torn between being “cool” and doing what is right. Along comes the mysterious outsider J.D. (Christian Slater) who helps Veronica make a choice meanwhile taking her down a dark road of murder, suicide pacts, and high school bombings.

Heathers is a movie that may have some difficulty being made in a post-columbine world. Featuring such subject matter as students killing fellow students and an attempted bombing, one might find the subject matter a little difficult to find funny. The film doesn’t use such themes lightly though. They are used to show the difficulty of teenage angst, the futility of suicide, and the fleeting duration of popularity. Even though the movie was made before the recent spat of high school tragedies, the subject matter was still troublesome for many at the time of production. Several actors turned down the roles due to the nature of the script, including Jennifer Connely, Brad Pitt, and Heather Graham. The original ending was also much more darker but I won’t spoil it for you. The DVD has the script or you could read it here at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heathers and remember, teenage suicide… don’t do it!

Other Notable Films by this Director: Airheads (1994), The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996), 40 Days and 40 Nights (2002)

-Dantasia

Bad Boy Bubby (1993)

Directed by Rolf de Heer

Starring Nicholas Hope

Ok back to the Austrailian theme, gotta warn ya, this is weird one.  Rolf de Heer spins a crazy yarn about a schizophrenic shut-in shot by multiple camera operators to convey the disparity in the main character’s perspective.  At times it is hilarious, at others, disturbing and poignant, but nonetheless, entertaining and original.

The film starts with Bubby trapped in a dingy one room studio with a cat and mother, who acts like a sadistic prison warden.  She refuses to let him leave, abusing him and using him for sex, until his father returns home.  A series of misunderstandings leads to a string of accidental homicides by Bubby via plastic wrap.  With no food and no knowledge of how to survive on his own, Bubby is forced out into a world he’s never experienced before.  Communicating through mimicry, Bubby gets varied reactions, sometimes funny, sometimes hostile.  In the end his antics earn him noteriety as a cult rock star and the love he needs from a busty nurse who reminds him of his mother.

I’ve never seen anything like it and it’s worth viewing because it lives in a genre of its own.  Somewhere between Lynch and Anderson, Bubby is delightfully insane.

Delicatessen (1991)

Directed by: Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet

Starring: Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard

Awards: Won European Film Award for Best Production Designer (1991) and Cesar for Best Editing, Best First Work, Best Production Design, and Best Writing (1992)

In a post-apocalyptic 1950’s France, food has become so scarce that people have resorted to dire means. Louison is an unemployed circus clown down on his luck until he finds an ad for a delicatessen looking for a handy man. In exchange for food and board, Louison is in charge of doing odd jobs for the delicatessen’s butcher, Clapet, and all the tenants who live in the building above the shop.. All is not what it seems, however, as Louison soon discovers that the previous handymen were fattened up by the butcher and ultimately became the “source” for new meat to feed the building’s tenants. Further complicating things, some of the tenants learn to like Louison, including Clapet’s daughter Julie, who even falls in love with the doomed man. Desperate to save him, Julie makes a deal with a group of subterranean dwellers/rebels who disavow meat (no, not vegetarian CHUDS!) to rescue him.

Shot prior to The City of Lost Children, Delicatessen shares the same great visual style and atmosphere. Filled with wonderful quirky characters, beautifully orchestrated scenes, and clever scenarios that all come together like a giant life-size version of the game Mousetrap. If you are in a mood for something dark and fun, then give Delicatessen a taste.

Other Notable Films by these Director’s: The City of Lost Children (1995)

-Dantasia

Fargo (1996)

Directed by: Joel and Ethan Coen

Starring: William H. Macy, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi, Peter Stormare

Awards: Oscar for Best Actress and Best Writing, Saturn for Best Action/Adventure/Thriller, David Lean Award for Direction, Critics Choice Award for Best Actress and Best Picture, and Best Director Award at Cannes Film Festival, to name a few (1997).

Fargo almost feels like a Tarantino film made with an emphasis on the fun and less on the heavy. Jerry Lundegarrd is a car dealer who has fallen heavily into debt. He quietly cooks up a plan and hires two men to kidnap his wife so that he can collect the ransom from her wealthy father. Things quickly sour from there as a simple kidnapping plot turns into a murder spree and a man down on his luck inadvertently changes the lives of everyone around him.

First off, I must admit that I’ve only seen one Coen Brother’s movie prior to recently sitting down and watching Fargo (The Big Lebowski). Ever since the early 90’s I’ve constantly heard how great their movies were and for one reason or another I’ve just never taken the time to see what all the fuss was about. After viewing Fargo, I now have the pleasure of saying that is about to change. Right from the opening credits this movie had me glued till the end. I went into it knowing only that the film was notorious for it’s odd Minnesota accents (“yah, you betcha”) and that it involved a murder. I wasn’t expecting to be sucked into a world of wonderfully odd characters, well shot scenes, and beautiful score that together create an odd mix of dread, black humor, and mood.

Other Notable Films by these Directors: Raising Arizona (1987), The Big Lebowski (1998), O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), No Country For Old Men (2007)

-Dantasia