Saturday, August 3, 2013

Friday Night Movie Reviews

We might be a bit late with them this month, but that doesn't mean our Friday Night Movie Reviews are any less awesome. As always on the first Friday of each month, we have a grab bag of mini movie reviews to wonder and amaze.

Join us below the cut to see what Courtney, Luke, Jacinta and Jeff have been watching this month!

 Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) by Courtney

The title should give you a decent idea of what you're in for, it's a ridiculous story, but in the best possible way, it's based on the novel of the same name which I must confess I have not read, so I am unable to compare and contrast. But both the book and the screenplay were written by Seth Grahame-Smith, who seems to have started this mash-up trend with his other book Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.

I saw this film in cinemas and went in with pretty low expectations, I thought it would be along the lines of Transformers or Pacific Rim; idiotic but fun with some spectacular action. What I didn't expect was a film that was sincere and relatively accurate to what we know about Lincoln's life...With vampires thrown in.

I think the real charm of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is that it is played straight and by a great cast so that you are invested in these characters but it also never takes itself too seriously. It walks a fine line in terms of tone which is why critical response was so divided, you are either the kind to go along with a premise like this, or you aren't. As a fan of Supernatural and Doctor Who, my tolerance of insanity is unbelievably high.

This film also features some genuinely badass vampires which have been missing from cinema as of late and they do some interesting things with their lore, this was also a point which upset some critics, but I'm just glad they can't sparkle.

This film is far from perfect but I can imagine it becoming a cult film, I already find myself watching it whenever it's on TV. It's a fun, B-grade movie with style to spare, so much style.

Howard The Duck (1986) by Luke

If you’ve never encountered Howard the Duck it’s an incredibly difficult film to explain. In fact, even more than that, it’s difficult to convince you that it even exists. Produced in 1986 by a post Return of the Jedi George Lucas, Howard the Duck is loosely based on Steve Gerber’s satirical and subversive seventies Marvel comic of the same name. It’s a live action film about a talking, humanoid duck (portrayed by a little person in an animatronic suit) who lives on a world full of ducks but is accidentally transported to earth via an experimental space ray. He teams up with Lea Thompson who is a singer in the most eighties girl band imaginable, Tim Robbins who plays a bumbling wannabe scientist, and he ends up battling Jeffrey Jones who is slowly transforming into an evil, scorpion-like alien overlord. I am deadly serious. This film exists.

A box office disaster, Howard is also widely considered to be one of the worst films of all time (especially considering the talent involved) but it’s not without it’s charm, and it’s definitely worth seeing as a curiosity if you’re a fan of terrible films. I loved it as an odd child, but not many people really know about it now. The biggest problem with Howard - even if you can get past its near impenetrable premise - is that it’s so tonally uneven. It’s too dumb for adults, and too sexy and weird for kids (if you’ve seen it you’ll recall the exposed duck boobs, the condom, the hot tub, and Howard in bed with Beverly). So really it’s a big budget George Lucas sci-fi, fantasy adventure made for absolutely no one!

But I’m a fan of its unapologetic weirdness, I find the duck man mesmerizing, Leah Thompson is adorable, Jeffrey Jones is appropriately gross, and there are many killer/groan-inducing one-liners, particularly as the film descends into its increasingly silly climax (the diner scene is a favourite). By the time Howard is up on stage playing guitar with girl rockers Cherry Bomb - who are singing a song about him complete with weird eighties quacking sample - I am completely sold, tears of unabashed joy streaming down my idiot face.

Apparently Lucas lost so much money on this thing that he had to sell his fledgling CGI animation company which later became Pixar. In this age of hugely successful Marvel movies, Howard remains the least likely to ever receive a reboot, but goddamn I would still love to see him cameo in a team movie. Watch this film if you want to be bemused, shocked and confused, and don’t let it put you off the original comics which were actually quite good for their time. And if you’re a Book Was Better podcast listener, then look out for an episode about the novelization soon!

42 (2013) by Jacinta

Given that this movie had an extremely limited release in Australia, I was pretty pleased to see it had been released to watch through iTunes. Hurray! Oh, wait, so it’s not available to rent? I have to buy it? It’s going to cost $30 to buy it? THIRTY DOLLARS? ARE YOU JOKING? And they wonder why people pirate movies.

Distribution quibbles aside, I was genuinely looking forward to this one, as I’d heard nothing but good reviews coming out of the US. The true story of Jackie Robinson’s journey to become the first African American to play pro baseball takes place in an emotive chapter in American history. Segregation is still hanging on in the 1940s, and signing Robinson on to play in the exclusively white Major League goes down like a bag of bricks.

I almost feel a little guilty in saying that this didn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. I suspect it’s far more my fault than the movie’s, however. I love sports movies and will pretty much watch anything, but I know very little about baseball and knew basically nothing about Jackie Robinson before watching this. I don’t think you NEED to be a full bottle on baseball to enjoy this movie, as it covers a lot more ground than just the game itself, but I felt like a few references went over my head, and I haaate watching a movie and knowing there’s something I’m missing.

One thing I can’t fault is the performances of the cast. Harrison Ford is stellar as crotchety old Branch Rickey (though there’s a good chance he may have just been ‘crotchety old Harrison Ford’ with no acting required), and Alan Tudyk’s unrelenting racist Ben Chapman made me feel incredibly uncomfortable. I was squirming in dismay during 90% of his scenes.

While I didn’t love 42, I did like it a lot, as it was a beautiful looking film with some very memorable performances. It likely won’t find a place in my DVD collection, but is worth a look for baseball fans and those interested in civil rights and modern American history.

Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011)  by Jeff

Everything about this movie screams "be wary": it's an independent-style, arthouse-style film that also served as the debut of Elizabeth Olsen, sister to the Full House Olsen Twins. Thankfully for her and for us, the film received a lot of critical acclaim while it tackles some serious societal issues.

Martha (when she's home) or Marcy May (when she's not) has escaped from a cult after two years. The cult is rather oppressive and involves a lot of very bad things for the women in the cult, as well as other illegal activity that's involved. Martha escapes to her sister and her sister's boyfriend, and the three have to navigate through the waters of Martha assimilating back into normal society even though they don't know all the details of her disappearance.

I get why this film was held in such high regard. The writing, the performances, they're all top notch. The film does do a disorienting, and often frustrating, flashback pattern between the present (with Martha being at home with her sister) and the past with the cult, and my one complaint is that it does fall into a lot of the weird dialogue and acting arthouse tropes in a film that would have been better served, in many respects, by a more traditional narrative. Olsen, in particular, was excellent, and I look forward to seeing her in more movies.

Overall? A solid flick. If you are interested in cult recovery and such, or more artsy well-written films, this is worth your time. Just don't look for anything too traditional.

1 comment:

  1. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012)- This movie is not even capable of being described into words as far as how brilliant it is. It seems so abnormal to have a story of Abraham Lincoln being mixed with that of hunting vampires but it was sooo well coordinated that it was absolutely genius. Not sure who the director/writer is but he/she displayed perfection in this film. the actors are great the graphics/special effects are even greater the story line/plot is amazing! I loved this movie and i know that it was well worth every penny i spent when i went to see it. PLEASE WATCH! trust me you wont regret IT!

    Marlene Detierro (Paydirt)