Tuesday, September 30, 2008

MIRRORS WITH SPOILERS - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW



Expectations can make or break a film. Lately I have been exploring the dark side of expectations. I have been going into films that I know completely suck, and having a good time with them. THE BANK JOB is an example of this. There is no argument that THE BANK JOB sucked. I went in expecting suck, and was mildly surprised by it. I found the experience enjoyable. I tackled MIRRORS in a similar fashion. But sometimes, suck is suck, and there is no way to redeem the absolute suck that is present.

MIRRORS which made 29 million in the theatres is going to make probably just as much in its DVD release. How is it that this film was given this chance? FELON, starring Stephen Dorff, Val Kilmer and Sam Shepard is superior to MIRRORS on all fronts, yet it went straight to video. The movie distribution question will always puzzle me. The chances of stumbling across a movie like FELON in your travels are rather limited. The chance of stumbling across MIRRORS a few months ago was a FOREGONE CONCLUSION. I couldn’t escape the trailers and the advertising blitz. How does a movie like MIRRORS catch the big cinematic pass and other, superior films get stuck in the straight to video grind? This question plagued me all the way through my viewing of MIRRORS.

The key to watching MIRRORS is to remember that it got incredibly low ratings. Remember that the critics disemboweled this film and slathered its intestines across the road as a warning for all headed in that direction. With such a warning, and a careful step over the film’s dirt-covered spleen, you might have a good time with it. If you read this review in its entirety, you probably won’t.

The opening credits are mesmerizing as the New York cityscape is mirrored against itself in all sorts of different ways. It is beautiful. Then the story girds its loins and gives you a pretty uncomfortable, improbable, barely-adhering-to-the-plot neck slashing.

Next we meet Ben Carson (Keifer Sutherland), a grizzled ex-cop who is working through his alcoholism, job loss and a marriage separation. Ben gets a job guarding an old department store that was burned down (with a ridiculous body-count) and the story is underway.

The title of the movie is “MIRRORS,” so we all know that it is a matter of time before the mirrors start to act up, and they do. Lots of loud noises and quick edits make scenes that in and of themselves wouldn’t be frightworthy downright uncomfortable.

Soon, the evil in the mirrors contacts Ben Carson and sends him looking for someone named ESSEKER to solve its problem. Ben also notices that the Department store was built over an insane asylum that is still (with mirrors)intact. This is a blatant nod to POLTERGEIST. And if you know POLTERGEIST, then you know that the evil that has been built over needs to be assuaged. The rest of the film is geared in this direction.

The stupid-horror-film tics mount as Ben shoots his gun at mirrors in the department store and the holes close, but when he tries to do this in front of his wife and kids, the holes remain there, and Ben looks completely out of his mind.

Ben also has a habit of seeing reflections turn and say things to him while he is with other people. This is fine, but he does so much jumping and screaming, that the over the top recoil and then apologies afterward are downright stupid.

Ben’s sister gets attacked while doing her obligatory nude scene. It makes me question the value of Amy Smart as an actor. She had so much promise back in the early 90s when she was in STARSHIP TROOPERS for thirty seconds. The attack on Amy Smart has been done better and with less of a budget. Most recently, that method of killing was seen in HATCHET, and let me tell you, the HATCHET was much more memorable.

Ben’s estranged family starts taking strange mirror attacks as he gets closer and closer to the truth. The parallels between Ben’s son and the mirror creatures to Carol Anne in POLTERGEIST is so blatant that I probably shouldn’t type about it anymore.

If this evil entity in the mirror was actually observing Ben’s life, it would realize that the attacks on his wife and kids are counter productive. In the name of cheesy, over-budgeted CG horror, the assaults continue. Ben’s wife also suffers from serious continuity errors with wounds on her face that appear and disappear for no reason.

*SPOILERS FROM NOW ON*

Esseker is the name of a little girl with acute schizophrenia. She was committed to the madhouse under the department store that burned out. Through a series of quick edits that were done better and more skillfully in 13 GHOSTS we learn that her treatment worked. She was put into a room with mirrors for a period of time and the evil left her and jumped into the mirrors. Now that evil wants her back. Ben does some research and calls in some library favors and learns that all of the patients were killed and Esseker died in that mass murder. There is a dirty cat and mouse/red-herring plate served and soon we learn that Esseker isn’t dead! Esseker is now a super-nun at some monastery that has no mirrors! Ben has to bring her back to the department store by gunpoint to bring this painful third act to a close.

This third act is the most irritating of the whole film. Of course, the evil jumps back into the Esseker the nun, and of course she now has the power of a power lifter with a belly full of Red Bulls. Ben is thrown through wall after wall and pumps bullet after bullet into this muscled, EXORCIST-throwback nun. After explosions and the virtual collapse of all mirrors within a specific area of New York city, the battle ends. Esseker must be dead, though we don’t get to see her corpse. This leaves a seriously brain-damaged door open for MIRRORS2.

The last scene hearkens to better horror films. Ben steps into the light and looks at the police and rubberneckers. Then it dawns upon him that they can’t see him. As he looks about, he realizes that everything around him is opposite and backwards. He is actually in the mirror reality. Seriously, what does this mean? Ben is now in a mirror dimension? How does he get out? Is there an actual explanation to all of this? The ending is pretty, but broken. It is a nod to superior movies that recognize that the evil has won. I am reminded of just about any zombie movie I have seen in my lifetime. The MIRRORS ending is possibly worth the 90 or so minutes that you will suffer through. The ending will most likely fail for you though, because now that you are expecting this weak and contrived conclusion. I went in with no expectations and no spoilers. I can’t say the same for you though.

MIRRORS received horrible reviews across the board. Going in with the lowest expectations made this film slightly enjoyable. This is a film that had a budget. The FX are solid. The shots are good too. However, knowing the “lowest-expectations secret” damns you to an unenjoyable experience. The upshot is that I have taken the bullet for you. Don’t bother with MIRRORS, this is some of the worst crap on the market.

More of my musings can be found here.
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Monday, September 15, 2008

KICK-ASS 1-4



This isn't the type of comic book that I used to read as a kid.

The comics code insignia is nowhere to be found on the cover of this series. Good thing too, because the amount of blood, profanity and references to pornography would have really wrecked those people of old when were trying to get EC Comics in line last century.


John Romita Jr. is a comic book artist that I have been aware of my entire life. His contributions to THE AMAZING SPIDERMAN were apparent when I was a kid, because I totally remember his name. His father was also a heavy player in the Marvel Universe as well. I know that a lot of people were miffed when John Romita Sr. stepped in for Ditko wayyy back when, but that is ancient history.


The Spiderman stories of old are done with here. KICK-ASS is a brutal flip on the whole scene. It starts with a kid strapped to a chair much like the end of any number of issues that I recall with Spider-Man. Usually, Spider-Man was beaten into some sort of submission and chained/tied to a chair while barely conscious. The moment of truth was coming, the badguys were about to unmask him, and something always happened.


We don't know what is going to happen to Kick-Ass when he is in such a chair. Kick-Ass, the high school dork turned self-styled super-hero in in deep though. We do know that he has wires hooked to his testicles and he his being interrogated. This comic doesn't shy away from that which is winceworthy. A stream of urine dribbles from the chair that Kick-Ass is tied to. This is all we know because he now starts to monologue. He gives us his story, which by issue four is still unfolding.


Dave Lizewski (Kick-Ass) wants more, and he likes comic books. So from his completely media drenched reality of comic books, video games and Internet porn he makes himself a superhero suit and goes out at night to see whatever it is that superheroes see. He also sets up a training regimen and puts on a little weight by eating red meat and fish.


Winceworthy is a word I coined 2 paragraphs ago, and that sums up his Dave's first encounter with crime. He gets beaten, with a level of violence that is reminiscent of HEAVY METAL magazine, and then he gets stabbed. Stumbling with thick patches and fountains of blood drizzling from his ruined body, he steps in front of a moving car. The damages are completely over the top. Broken legs, a crushed spine and candidacy for a series of metal plates in his head is how issue one ends. Dave's broken body is left in a puddle of blood, positioned like a chalked out corpse.


I read this comic and truly considered the human body as a balloon merely keeping our life fluids in place. The beating that Dave takes in issue one is obviously setting up his return to the superhero stance where he cannot be beaten again. Dave is becoming something, and it is very interesting.


It must be noted at this point that KICK-ASS is being filmed as a movie right now. Nic Cage has a role in the film that I can't even determine at this point. This is where the viral magic of this comic book comes to life. The movie is being filmed with elements of the plot that haven't been released to the general public yet. Interesting. It is unfortunate that it is Nic Cage, because he is a complete and utter hack who destroys everything he reads and touches. But once again, I have hope for the hopelessly sullied actor.


Even more interesting is this viral film put out by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. to further whet our appetites:




This footage coincides with the fight that Dave/Kick-Ass gets into after he has healed up from his first beating.


With nonstop pop-culture references, viral marketing and a movie slated to drop next year, it is time for you to thank me for putting this concept in your head now. This is obviously something that people are going to be chattering about incessantly in about a year.


The comic continues. Dave was apparently found beaten without his suit on. He is initially happy that this happened because he doesn't want to have to explain to his loving, widower father what he was doing in a superhero suit, bleeding to death on the street. There is a backlash though, and the high school kids place a homosexual hustler template on Dave. Dave is constantly swaying from feeling completely cool as a vigilante super hero and at other times feeling like a complete outcast/loser/geek. His internal monologue (which is from his electroded testicle frame of mind) is raw and painful. He has a Kick-Ass Myspace page with thousands of friends while his own page has only 8.

He answers a woman's MySpace request to talk to her abusive ex-boyfriend. At the apartment in question, Dave is once again in too deep. This one seems to be the situation that will kill him. However, a masked ten-year-old girl with machetes shows up and proceeds to butcher everyone in the apartment. Kick-Ass is now possibly on the hook for five murders. He chases the girl to her partner, another masked man who tells Dave to f*ck off.


What does this mean? It implies that the Dave doesn't have a monopoly on the masked vigilante market. The masked little girl is a disturbing vision, a real foul-mouthed killing machine. Dropping not only f but c-bombs as she slashes her way through her life. She is being trained obviously to become something monstrous by this older masked man who allows her to hit the car compactor button after an interrogation which clouds a comic panel with blood and guts.
Kick-Ass is rough, hard and completely profane. Kick-Ass is also a lot of fun. This is comic book violence as over the top as possible without going in the direction of say...LOBO. The viral nature of this whole thing, and the concept that the story is fully in place and scripted are enough to get anyone with a thirst for pop-culture knowledge in a frenzy. This isn't the kind of comic I read as a kid, and thank God I am now an adult.



-Mediasaurus Rex





Sunday, September 14, 2008

BURN AFTER READING - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


BURN AFTER READING is a lot of fun. It is a comedy and it hits the comedic notes. This is a comedy that doesn't have Will Farrell or Ben Stiller written all over it. This thing is sophisticated. It is quirky. It is disturbing. It will also kick you out of the theater with a desire for more of these people and their ridiculous lives.


Summarizing this film is difficult. J.K. Simmons sums it up as one big clusterf*ck at the end of the film, and he is bang-on.


Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) is a CIA guy who has been demoted in his organization. He quits. He starts to write his memoirs. Through a chain of silly, mentally challenged events, his rough draft (on a CD) winds out in the hands of Chad (Brad Pitt) and Linda (Frances McDormand).


We know that Linda wants to have some serious cosmetic surgery to keep age at bay and to secure a decent man in her life. She has a plan, and it is going to take some money. Chad works with her at the gym, and he is just a happy-go-lucky guy who is out to have fun. Extorting some cash from Osbourne Cox is fun, and Chad is all over it. I have to tell you right now, that this is one of the dimmest roles Brad Pitt has ever done. He even had more brain cells as the boy toy in THELMA AND LOUISE.


Osbourne's wife, Katie (Tilda Swinton) is having an affair with this guy named Harry (George Clooney) and somehow through all of these characters, a lot of bed-swapping and general self-serving intentions, everyone is infected and bothered by the extortion plan of Chad and Linda.

The Coen brothers like their darkness, and this movie brings it to you. Things that are nice get snuffed out. Things that are dark and evil seem to prosper. Most interestingly is that a lot of effects and budget were spared by the constant updating of J.K. Simmons who is some high up CIA mucky-muck. Major parts of the plot are revealed in the Simmons briefings. The tool is a good one, because the briefings are funny and deflating at the same time. Simmons' reactions to the antics of these characters are basically what ours (the viewers) are. This is an interesting play on the whole presentation of the film.


In the end, this is a story about nothing. Nothing is something that the Coen Brothers like to look at and consider. THE BIG LEBOWSKI is an example of the nothingness that I speak of. In the end, all of the riddles are solved and perhaps (outside of the obligatory low body-count) no one outside of the directly affected characters will notice much of a difference in the rest of the world. All of the plot mechanisms, all of the dastardly deeds, all of the violence, it all folds neatly into a package that really doesn't matter and can be shelved somewhere. Most of the loose ends are tied up, and the CIA makes sure that there are no bodies to be found.


There will be deep scholarly examinations into the societal finger-wagging that the Coen brothers have done here. There will be a lot of studying of the dialogue and the nuances of the various characters. Oh yes, this film has "study me in film school" written all over it.


For matters of brevity, and quite honestly, because the film required multiple viewings, I am going to cite the one thing that is crystal clear about this film: The actors put in their work.


Malkovich is completely pissed off in just about every scene he is in. He has fury and pent up aggression mastered here. He drops f-bombs like he means them. His dialogue is hurled at everyone in his vicinity, and it is quite apparent that he wants this well-crafted profanity to penetrate and hurt. Malkovich is a machine.


Frances McDormand is heartbreaking as a simple woman living in complex times. Her inner spirit is gentle and longing. Her exterior is worn and her body language is perfect. She puts her heart on the screen for us, and it is a damaged, beautiful thing. Frances McDormand becomes the character Linda Litzke and it is impossible to look at her while she is onscreen and think of any other character she has ever played. This is not the woman from DARKMAN. This is far from FARGO. She has found this character and served her up raw.


Brad Pitt's Chad is mesmerizing. When he is onscreen, you have no choice but to stare at him. He has it all under control. His character is dim, and the part that he plays in the film is a stretch, but Pitt takes to this Chad character well. Almost too well. The crime is that there is not enough of an explanation of Chad and his inner-workings. This is only something that comes to you in retrospect, because while he is onscreen, he is slowly showing you bits and pieces of this concoction. Brad Pitt gives us Chad in every way you have seen in the ads for this film. He does it, and he is complete with it. Chad is a wonderful character, no one else could have done this.


George Clooney's Harry is so full of energy that he is literally twitching when onscreen. He is twitching and chewing the scenery and stealing every scene he is in. His gaze is so intense and his actions are so animated, that it is hard to recall that he usually stands around in nice suits and lounges through most of his films. Furthermore, this isn't the porker that you remember from SYRIANNA. This is a man who has ripped his body into some lean shape and is literally buzzing around your head like a zealous, fecal-happy fly.


There are others as well, and they all deliver their roles like champs.


Is it a good movie? Sure it is. It is fun. Will you survive the wait till it drops on DVD? Yes you will. It is a movie that requires multiple viewings. It will also leave you trying to piece together a sequel...something...anything just so you can see this machinery work together again.


More of my musings can be found here.
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METALLICA: DEATH MAGNETIC



Right out of the gate, I have to stress to you that if there ever was a Metallica fan at any time, I am that individual. I saw them open for Ozzy back when Burton was still alive. That should be enough background info on me for you to trust what I am about to put down here.

Next detail is this album cover. This is by far the stupidest album cover I have ever seen from these guys. It is stupid. It would be half-cool if this were a concept album, but that isn't what is going on here. Metallica doesn't have a message. The message that they are pushing with this stupid album cover art is...I have no idea.

Rick Rubin produced this. Rick Rubin knows how to produce good stuff.

Metallica used to be angry. The movie SOME KIND OF MONSTER explored their pitfalls with success and how weak and milquetoast they have become over the years. Personally, I dropped out by the time AND JUSTICE FOR ALL dropped. Why? They had promised me in multiple metal magazines like HIT PARADER that they would never film a rock video. But it was apparent that they were on the path to more and more cash. The street level wasn't enough for them. They needed to get pretty and commercialized. In my mind, they became a write off. I went elsewhere for my metal. I have always come back for a listen though. I have touched bases with one or two songs on each of their albums that they have dropped over the years. I have heard the weakness and the over-production for years. I have learned to hate Bob Rock. But the truth of the matter is that they are no longer angry.

SOME KIND OF MONSTER was a revelation to myself and everyone else how far Metallica has fallen from their original metal posturing. But what I saw in that film was a hunger to bring it all back. The ST. ANGER album was forgivable in the sense that they were becoming. They were arriving in the direction that seemed to be the promise of visitation to their roots. I listened to FRANTIC for about a week before I parked it.

And now DEATH MAGNETIC is here. It has all of the strength and hope of an earlier album, but then it is missing something too. It is strong. There are crunches and levels of speed that I am sure these guys really had to work at to bring to the table. There is a groovy instrumental called SUICIDE and REDEMPTION that is supposed to remind us of the glory days of ORION or CALL OF KTHULU, but it is missing somewhere.

The problem with this band this time around is a big one. It is the center of the Metallica universe. It is what seems to have been the problem for quite some time. It is also a problem because it is actually a person. That person is James Hetfield.

James Hetfield doesn't have it anymore. His voice seems to be all treble and no bass. He barks out his lyrics in THAT WAS JUST YOUR LIFE fast and welded together. Every syllable links to the next, and there is no way to really understand what he is saying. This is similar to the delivery on RIDE THE LIGHTNING'S FIGHT FIRE WITH FIRE. However, Hetfield isn't delivering as strong. His voice has wimped in some way. Perhaps it was all of those singing lessons he took in order to make pop-crap like ENTER SANDMAN, but whatever the case is, the man sings like his throat hasn't quite figured out that he is a castrati yet.

James Hetfield has lost his balls. It isn't just in his delivery, it is also in his songwriting skills.

Metallica misses most heinously with their lack of anger. Granted, they haven't just stepped back and wimped completely out like HELMET did, but they are well on their way. The guitars are heavy, and delivered like the speed metal chugga chugga you remember. The lyrics are a little more thought out than they have been, but they are still choking on cornball like the line, "Love is a four letter word" from THE DAY THAT NEVER COMES. These are some musicians on the career track. They have nothing to say.

ALL NIGHTMARE LONG has a solid crunch to it. It starts off faking you out and making you think that it is going to be some sort of ballad, and then hits the double-bass pace. It is frenetic and it really sounds like it is going to deliver. Then Hetfield opens his mouth and the song is completely discounted. "Luck...runs...out." Hetfield is seriously the worst thing that happens again and again and again. This is unfortunate, because Hetfield is going nowhere.

MY APOCALYPSE is the only song with Hetfield singing on it that I am actually going to load onto my MP3 player. I am also going to load up SUICIDE AND REDEMPTION, but the rest of this album just isn't there.

BROKEN BEAT AND SCARRED starts with a little bit of funky guitar work. But the hook that they are swinging with was done better by Living Colour with CULT OF PERSONALITY. I have to hand it to Metallica on the time changes though. They change up like none other. These are some accomplished musicians. But is it enough to make them relevant? I say no.

THE UNFORGIVEN III is painful. It starts with strings and a piano riff. I suppose this is to make anyone who bought into Metallica's foray into classical with that S&M trash feel like they are a part of the show. This isn't up to the standards of the original UNFORGIVEN which was more like the howl of a person who realizes that all is completely lost. This isn't up to the standards of the UNFORGIVEN II which was amusing because Mary Ann Faithful came in with some seriously croned out "la-la-las" at the end. This is a song that should have been saved for a b-sides and other forgettable trash album.

THE JUDAS KISS is amusing, but it bogs down in its own complexity. Perhaps after twelve listens to this, I will find something memorable about it, but as I listen to it for the 5th time while typing this, it seems, "stock." I say "stock" because that is how Metallica referred to their music that wasn't cutting it in SOME KIND OF MONSTER. This is a stock piece of music. So bland is this piece of metal that it is hard to find where to nod your head in standard music appreciation. It is all over the place and it needs a re-write.

Lars is on the job on this album, crashing away randomly as he always has. He has also straightened out his little snare-drum issue he had on the last album and simply dug himself in as a guy who knows how to pound the skins. Lars delivers.

Kirk Hammet brings signature riff after signature riff to the table. I have always liked Kirk Hammet. Yes, he is a hired gun, but he puts in work. When it is time to put in work, this guy is making sounds with his guitar that simply don't sound possible. He knows how to bring the speed and he knows how to slow it down and bring a strong crunch.

Robert Trujillo is there. I love this guy. He brings the bass when they let him. It seems that he has been tuned out though. He is prominent in THE DAY THAT NEVER COMES. It is too bad that Hetfield is too busy ruining this song with his heartfelt, ball-less singing. Trujillo is the best thing that has happened to Metallica in decades, and they are sitting on him, and holding him down. Trujillo has a moment at the beginning of ALL NIGHTMARE LONG as well, but then he gets mixed out once the American Metal Pedal gets stomped. The only song that Trujillo gets to hold it all the way down in is the limp-wristed UNFORGIVEN III. In all honesty, I got onto this album to hear Trujillo bring it the way I know he can. All I can say is that Metallica have a leash on this guy and they are choking him out. It is too bad, because Robert Trujillo could really do something for these guys and they aren't letting him.

Rick Rubin produced this. Rick Rubin knows how to produce good stuff. If Rick Rubin hadn't produced it, this album would safely be defined as "sucky." I truly believe that it is Rubin's work on the boards that has made the bulk of this album above banal.

Am I a victim of high expectations? I don't think so. Metallica has been sprinkling sugar on their crap and calling it good metal for years. I was hoping for a step away from their radio-friendly trash that they have been doing. But I should have qualified that hope with the fact that it shouldn't be a mere two clicks above mediocre either.

-Mediasaurus Rex

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

FIDO - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Fido is a film from 2006 that got past the bulk of us, including me. It is a zombie film that pushes all boundaries yet remains strangely sweet until the end.

Set in what seems to be the post apocalyptic 1950s, the viewer is forced to accept a GRIP of improbability before they can enter the storyline.

Apparently there was a big zombie war. After learning to shoot zombies in the head, scientists later learned how to make zombies into menservants. This is all through the use of a collar that is placed on a zombie's neck. If the red light is on, the zombie is open to taking orders and serving their master. If the light turns green, then run for cover, because the master just became the dinner.

Obviously, this fickle level of zombie security goes haywire regularly. This is a complete failure within the script. It is an easy out for the writers (there were 3 of them) to move the plot along. Collar malfunctions and the beating on of collars or just the yanking off of collars becomes the main way to propel the plot.

The story is about Helen Robinson (Carrie-Anne Moss) and her desire to fit into her neighborhood. So she gets a zombie as a manservant. Her husband (Dylan Baker) is completely detached and living in a zombie-inspired, golf-medicated fantasyland. Her son Timmy, is lonely and neglected. He latches onto the zombie whom he names Fido, and the adventures begin.

The adventures basically lead to an indictment of corporate America. Along the way however, we are treated to a concept of sweet (is that even possible?) necrophilia. We see a kid get shot, and we know that another kid is being killed by a zombie based on his screams. We are also treated to a series of splatteriffic headshots, dismemberment and traditional zombie cannibalism.

How are such levels of gore and shocking material conveyed with such a gentleness? It all has to do with Timmy's relationship with Fido. We have to accept that the world that Timmy lives in is a violent one. Timmy has had to process an apocalypse and the concept of the dead coming to life. So when he is out with his class shooting at targets and being coached to aim for the head, the audience is lulled. This is LEAVE IT TO BEAVER with zombies in the background.

I am hard pressed to recall if there is any profanity in this film.

In the end, as I mentioned, it is a corporate America takedown. It isn't bad, and it isn't good. What the film IS however, is completely hypnotic. The old cars, the pastels and the array of beautiful clothes that Carrie-Anne Moss wears all symbolize a part of America's past that is gone. This part of our history seems unscathed, even with a completely horrible zombie template.

In the end, necrophilia seems OK, especially when feelings and love are present. The necrophiliac theme (as hinted at by the above poster) is so sugar-coated, that it took awhile for me to determine the abomination taking place. It wasn't as simple as any number of zombie pulp short stories that I have read. Sex with the dead is still sex with the dead, no matter how animated and "into it" that corpse might be.

Fido is a diversion. It is a conversation starter. I suppose it could also be a conversation finisher. It is light, and should be treated as such.

More of my musings can be found here.
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BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD - A BADASS MOVIE REVIEW


Yes, this is a film from last year, but it deserves a slight review.

How old is Sidney Lumet? Here is a hint: OLD. Now when I reach my second childhood, I hope that my product is a little more gentle than this film. I would like to die known as a gentle soul. Lumet has made it clear with this film that he is not a gentle soul, but he is one of the profane, the vulgar and the perverse. I went through this film a second time recently just to make sure it was what I thought it was, and yes, it is. This is one of the most mean-spirited films I have ever watched.

In brief, Andy and Hank are brothers. Andy is Philip Seymour Hoffman and Hank is Ethan Hawke. They both have money problems. Andy's is from embezzlement and an apparently out of control heroin addiction. Hank's is a divorce and an expensive school for his daughter.

Andy hatches a plan to rob a jewelry store. The problem with this plan (which is what I needed the second viewing for) is that it is their' parent's jewelry store. The second viewing showed me just how ON IT Philip Seymour Hoffman is as an actor. The deal is that he isn't letting Hank in on the owners of the shop until he has Hank on board. With Hank on board, it is mesmerising to watch Hoffman dodge and duck his way out of getting his hands dirty with this at all. The entire onus is on Hank. Hank follows suit and proceeds to foul the job up beyond all levels of foulness.

If this isn't dirty enough, there is Gina Hanson (Marisa Tomei) who is Andy's wife. However, she is having an affair with Hank. She spends a lot of time in the bedroom in this film. She spends a lot of time in various stages of undress. It is unfortunate. Marisa has acting chops, but Lumet was worried more about her breasts I think. Her character is a catalyst, but ultimately, she is naked window dressing.

Rounding these heavy players out are Albert Finney as the father of the Hansons, Rosemary Harris (Spiderman's Aunt May) as the mother and Amy Ryan (from the Wire) as Hank's ex.

It is no secret that everything goes totally wrong in this film. Sideways. The robbery is botched, and fingers are pointed and the stress is ratcheted over the top.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is devastating as a man under ridiculous pressure. The pressure that is on him is compounded, and split and then compounded again. He is ultimately left with a few choices to get out of his situation. He is so destructive in his methods that suicide seems to be the option that will be plucked. The direction that Philip Seymour Hoffman takes is one that is much more street. He goes headlong into the problem and solves it with brute force and bullets.

This is a film about failure. Failure of family. Failure of business. Failure of marriage. Failure of the police. Failure of escapism. Failure of remorse. Failure of crime. Everything good and bad fails in this movie heinously. The success is the movie itself. However, as I cited already, this is one bitter, mean-spirited film. I can't even determine what mood you should be in when watching this. if you are bummed out, this will make you even more bummed out. If you are happy, then this film will be your buzzkill.

But it is acted and scripted like a serious work of art. When Philip Seymour Hoffman's Andy realizes that his wife has been cheating on him with his brother, he goes through the motions. He goes through the motions of a broken man. He tosses the furniture and he pours a bowl of pebbles onto a glass coffee table. So slowly and half-heartedly is his destruction of his domicile that I was reminded of Steve Buscemi's missed strike in THE BIG LEBOWSKI right before he has a heart attack in front of the nihilists. Andy's motions prior to the house-toss were precise and done with purpose. Andy has lost all hope at this point. He is ready to survive, but half of him is dead. Hence the title. Andy becomes a dead man walking. He is in hell, and he is going to take everyone with him.

Do I suggest that you watch this movie? Perhaps for art's sake. Other than that, I would warn you to stay away. This is a rough, rough ride. And Sidney Lumet? That man is well on his way to hell too for foisting such an ugly view of life upon us.


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