Seasons Greetings yet again, dear ones. And here it comes…the end of year barrage of movies released from now until the awards season is over. More on the nominations pouring forth this week after the reviews. In Spain alone this weekend, no less than 17 films (yes, you’ve read that correctly!) are being premiered in wide or arthouse releases. Seven of those features are English-based and we tackle most of them this week.
First off, we have to start off with something so unexpectedly enticing, so brilliantly yet malevolently executed, something so Italian it makes you lust…The Tale of Tales. An Italian-French-UK production helmed by Matteo Garrone (of Gomorra fame), and it is truly an epic tale of the oddest, surrealistic and most Baroque proportions. Based on some of the original fairytales by famed author Giambattista Basile (of Rapunzel, Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella fame, just to name a few…hint, hint Disney fans…they got the ideas from this Italian master storyteller), the film runs that gamut from real to surreal and back again so many times, some may find it difficult to keep up. But whilst telling its interwoven stories, fables and fairytales, what we, the viewing audience, are made privy to is a cinematic wonder thing! It’s as if The Dark Crystal made love with The Princess Bride during the Middle Ages and a story on celluloid was spurned through the mind of Sam Raimi invoking the spirit of Fellini. At some points, you're entranced and others just stunned, but you simply cannot look away. The cast is absolutely stellar, as well. Just to name a few: Salma Hayek as the Queen, creepy and tiny Toby Jones, the always fantastic Vincent Cassel and John C. Reilly are amongst a smorgasbord of mostly European character actors who bring tales from 400 years ago to life on the big screen in a tremendously fresh way. This is a new and wonderfully, creepazoid film for adults, and even kids over 10 or 12, that should most definitely become a cult classic. ###-1/2
A couple of the Sitges Film Fest movies are also premiering this weekend, and we’re going to start with indie and critical darling, Turbo Kid. You know it’s an instant trip being taken the minute the narrator at the beginning says, “This is the future. The year is 1997.” Mostly because the entire film looks like it’s 1987, and when the intro theme song kicks in with Eighties guitar riffs and lines like, "You can light the dark when they hear your heart of thunder…” SO cheeseball, so cheese wiz, so tasty and wrong for being so. The film is the story of The Kid, a young boy and toy/gadget collector living in (yet again) a dystopian future who, after meeting his soon-to-be-best friend, Apple, who is actually a robot, must encounter a series of near-death challenges in order to rid the wasteland of insane dark lord Zeus, played like a Mighty Morphine demigod to absolute perfection by cult hero Michael Ironside.There is no other way around it…this is a film that must be seen to be believed. It’s so insane yet fun, silly yet entertaining, you simply cannot look away. Turbo Kid 2:Big Budget, here it comes! ###-1/2
Ah, Dope…what a dope-ass film, and when NYC/TX is saying that about a VERY L.A. film, it’s got to be something decent. This might be one of the finest months for epic, South-L.A. films. A few weeks ago brought us Straight Outta Compton, of course shunned by awards noms as of late, and this film brings us to the present but throws it back to the Nineties with such sharp game, one can’t help but being bloody entertained. Anyone who is over 24 can probably remember the days of Nineties hip-hop and R&B, not to mention the styles, attitudes and progress that it brought to the world. To make a modern day telling of older, quirky and nerdy L.A. teens in a comedic way was just genius. Dope follows the (mis)adventures of Malcolm (Shameik Moore) as he makes his way through Inglewood, Cali and a myriad of characters that envelop his life. With Zoe Kravitz in another breakout role and A$AP Rocky in a finally palatable realm (screw his annoying music, frankly!), this film hits new standard heights. Made for less than a million bucks, the film has already garnered more then 20 times that at the US box office and deserves the same here! ###-1/2
As I watched the film The Salvation, I kept getting throwbacks to The Quick and the Dead for some reason…but this is a much more concise, well-written, acted and executed western film. Dealing with another influx of immigrants arriving into the Midwest and taking a stab at the current situation the world, especially Europe, is facing in these crucial times. It's post-Civil War times and a well-meaning Danish settler/farmer is finally receiving his family from Denmark, only to have them killed by a couple of drunkards during a travel by stagecoach. The film then turns into revenge piece, not Tarantino-esque mind you, but the craftsmanship of a simple, obvious idea of a man redeeming his loss, and it is so expertly handled by the actors here, the viewer is easily drawn into the drama. Mads Mikkelsen (The Hunt, Hannibal), Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Eva Green and Jonathon Pryce bring believable range to their roles and this quiet film deserves a decent applause. ###-1/2
As Murder of a Cat starts, it’s easy to get sucked into its heartstring pulling. As the title suggests, the mystery begins with the death of Mouser, a contented housecat who has lived well into the double digits. Cats die every day, but there’s something especially suspicious about Mouser’s demise, considering that this kitty’s corpse is found impaled by an arrow. Of all the jokes in the film, the first sight of Mouser’s dead body is one gag the pic cannot afford to botch, and yet Greene, an avowed animal lover, opts not to play the macabre beat for laughs, thereby lending a certain validity to her man-child protagonist, Clinton Moisey (Fran Kranz), and his foolhardy plan to bring the cat’s killer to justice, and this is where the film gets played out. Fizzling into a jokey caricature of itself despite the fun. ##
Bloodsucking Bastards is a comedic horror film that is in one part silly slapstick and one part horror/comedy genius. The premise reminded me of an old X-Files episode where a corporate boss is literally sucking the life out of his sub-ordinates. This is the plot of Bastards, but the dynamic instance of it lies in the seriously well-written comedy fare that Ryan Mitts and a one Dr. God wrote. When Evan (Fran Kranz of Donnie Darko and Golden State fame) realises that the new head of corporate sales is a soul-sucking vampire/monster, he is convinced that he must lead the crusade in revealing the true identity behind Pedro Pascal’s perfect performance as Max. Simply put, this makes for some of the finest types of easy-to-swallow, comedic horror flicks and this second movie with Kranz this week really should put him more in producer’s eyes! A really, fun comedy. ###-1/2
Now then, here come the nominees! Oh my nerves...With the announcements of the Golden Globe nominations, we officially have entered the awards season, and is it just me or was this year rather lackluster with regards to cinema.... Click here for Vanity Fair's rundown list of nominees and next week, let's catch up and discuss. Have great one, all!