Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Hextuple Bill Mini Musings: Money, Men, and Evil...

Winter's Bone:
Set amidst the harsh mid-winter woodlands of Alabama, Jennifer Lawrence plays a 17 year old charged with raising her two young siblings, looking after her ill mother, maintaining a roof over their head, and ultimately tracking down her deadbeat meth-cooking father who has skipped bail and left the family home on the line. Meandering, slowly paced, sparsely plotted, and extremely atmospheric, it might take a while to pull you in but once it does its Oscar-nominated harsh realism will keep you intrigued ... although it's not quite all you might think it's trumped up to be. Intriguing.

The Invisible Man:
I was into the likes of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy, and The Bridge of Frankenstein long ago (they're all wonderful and everlasting pieces of early horror cinema), but it was only relatively recently that I got around to Dracula (which I was a bit half-and-half about, to be honest) - and likewise it has taken me a while to get around to James Whale's fantastically inventive and mischievous The Invisible Man. Naturally it's quaint by today's standards, but in 1933 the practical trickery and rudimentary visual effects must have been astounding - indeed they're wonderful to behold in 2011.

The opening is chilling (and not just literally) as Claude Rains' scientist pitches up at a remote tavern seeking peace and privacy in order to discover how to reverse the effects of his own creation - a chemical that has turned him invisible and violently unstable. Packed with humour, great character actors, splendid special effects, a strong visual approach that strained against the early confines of 'sound cinema', and a surprising dark streak at times, it is no wonder that Whale's classical horror picture has become a beloved and respected genre milestone.

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps:
Gordon Gekko is back - the devil that accidentally become the poster boy and inspirational figure for a generation of Investment Bankers - but not quite as much, and in not quite the same way, as you might expect. Although he's still a dangerously charming bastard, so some things never change. Shia LaBeouf and Carey Mulligan (an investment banker with a penchant for green fusion energy, and a lefty blogger, respectively) are the main focus of the plot that is set amongst the events leading up to and beyond the 2008 financial disaster.

Some of the money-speak gets a bit confusing (or maybe that's the point), the use of metaphors couldn't be more blunt (children blowing bubbles, for example), and certain Gekko character beats in the final act don't quite settle, but especially when compared to Stone's recent efforts (the comical but generally pointless W. and his somewhat spiritual World Trade Center) it's pretty good. It's definitely not in the same league as his iconic original - although the brash visual pace has returned with vigour - but there is a purpose behind this outing. An intriguing follow-up that fans of the 1980s original should definitely seek out.

World's Greatest Dad:
From Bobcat Goldthwait (yes, the guy from the Police Academy movies) comes this unique black comedy, featuring Robin Williams as a failed writer/teacher, who is wrapped up in a whirlwind after a tragic event occurs in his life (a moment that is delivered with chilling realism by Williams). Seeking to disguise the reason behind it, he inadvertently writes a book that gains national attention. Quirky, unique, and with a dark wit that combines the ordinary with the extraordinary, it's well worth checking out. Bonus points also for the reverence afforded to proper zombie films featuring the shambling undead.

Tucker & Dale vs Evil:
It feels like a very long time since I first heard about this flick - a horror comedy in which the grim-looking hillbillies are the bumbling good guys, not the machete wielding psychopaths, and the gaggle of fresh-faced 'teens' are deadly in their ineptitude. Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine play the titular hillbillies who venture into the Appalachian mountains to renovate their new holiday home, only to get mixed up in a gore-ific and hilarious comedy-of-errors. One thing though - whoever cut the trailer should be slapped - they spoiled so many great moments from the flick (especially in the Red Band Trailer). So if you like the idea of the flick, avoid the trailers and just see it - I enjoyed it a lot, but I'm sure I would have enjoyed it even more if so many of the good bits hadn't been blown by the ever-so-revealing trailer.

From the creator of Basket Case (which explains a lot) comes this utterly barmy rejigging of the Frankenstein story. A Jersey boy called Jeffrey (who spends his spare time performing self-administered brain surgery with a drill, and looking after his experiment/pet brain-with-an-eyeball-in-it creation) creates a remote controlled lawnmower that promptly hacks his girlfriend to pieces. Fortunately he's working on piecing her back together, but seeing as he's missing all but a foot, hand, and her head, he ventures across the bridge into the red light district of New York to gather just the right parts from prostitutes. Initially his plan goes explosively off-course, but he succeeds in bringing his girlfriend back to life - except she's now a monstrous Frankenhooker! It's utterly, utterly mental - perhaps almost too silly straight-off-the-bat, but after I stuck with it for a little bit it all came together and proved to be quite an enjoyable load of gory nonsense.

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