Monday 21 January 2013

Triple Bill Mini Musings: Sleaze, Hippies, and Iron...

Father's Day:
What's it about?
Troma-produced low budget exploitation action/horror/comedy flick about a demonic killer who exclusively rapes and murders fathers - but now a male prostitute, a stripper, and her monocular gun-toting, syrup-loving brother must come together to track down the bloated beast and put an end to his reign of terror in this town north of Tromaville.
Who would I recognise in it?
Lloyd Kaufman, and the Astron-6 regulars.
From genre-loving indie filmmaking collective Astron-6 (who together fulfil most duties on both sides of the camera), Father's Day is a brash, sleazy, gruesome, and knowingly-humorous dose of nouveau-grindhouse grot. Presented as if recorded onto videotape from a late night triple-bill on some dead-end TV channel that specialises in trash cinema (replete with "coming up" menu of programming and mid-film advert break), there's a charming sense of fondness for a bygone era of film viewing that people of my generation took to heart.

Click "READ MORE" below for more from Astron-6, Paul Rudd & Jennifer Aniston letting their hair down, and that film about the most dominant woman in British politics...
Father's Day charges through the gate from the get-go with absolute gusto, diving straight into the rather repulsive deeds as committed by the movie's big bad, and despite the odd wobble here and there along the way, it manages to keep the pace moving forward while providing much-needed moments of rather witty humour. Being a Troma production, expect sights and sounds you wouldn't want your Granny to see ... severed body parts (some of which get used as, well, sex toys), exploding heads, bared flesh, rape (unusually for this type of filmmaking it's all male-on-male sexual violence), incest, and chainsaw-wielding strippers ... and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Similarly to Jason Eisener's gloriously fun Hobo With A Shotgun, Father's Day was shot digitally by a passionate team (and, in this instance, had various forms of grain applied for that added hint of old school genre cinema), and it shows - it was never going to be Oscar-worthy stuff, and nor should it be. What it is, is a bloody good time for rabid genre fans. While Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino's "Grindhouse" might have flopped at the U.S. Box Office, it not only found it's audience on the home market, but it inspired a resurrection of down-and-dirty genre filmmaking - some of the results have been iffy, some results have primarily been rip-offs of RR&QT's style, but there have also been some cracking releases such as this. Good.

What's it about?
Two New York professionals find themselves forced out of the city by financial circumstances and stumble upon a commune where they find something they were looking for - but will the love affair with something different last?
Who would I recognise in it?
Paul Rudd, Jennifer Aniston, Justin Theroux, Malin Akerman, Ken Marino, Alan Alda, Joe Lo Truglio.
From the Judd Apatow stable of R-Rated comedy productions, you can already figure out the sort of tone you should be expecting, and it conforms to this general way of doing things (minus the overt reliance on improvised 'insert multiple versions of this gag here' formatting). It strikes a balance between gentle satire, toilet humour, raunchiness, and the fish-out-of-water journey, and goes generally as expected, but with plenty of biting additions throughout (such as a rich housewife who remains drunk and medicated to deal with her obnoxious money-hungry husband). It's good fun while it lasts, even if it isn't destined for classic status. Good.

The Iron Lady:
What's it about?
From Phyllida Lloyd, the director of Mamma Mia, comes this biopic of Britain's first (and, still, only) female Prime Minister ... seriously ... from the person who directed Mamma Mia ... yeah ... and yes, this is the one that Meryl Streep won an Oscar for in 2012.
Who would I recognise in it?
Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Anthony Head, Richard E. Grant.
First off, this should have been presented as a linear narrative that focused on the ascent-to-power of a woman in a male-dominated political world. Margaret Thatcher became the first female party leader - in 1975 - and the party she was leading was the Conservative Party (you might have assumed one of the left-wing parties would have been the first to get there, but nope, and they still haven't got there either) ... that in itself is surprising, but even more than that she became the first female Prime Minister - in 1979 - and maintained this position for over a decade. Her time in power was controversial and fraught with tough times and tough decisions ... so you would have thought that her rise to power would have offered a bountiful supply of biopic opportunities. Sadly, Lloyd's film opts to spend half the running time following an elderly Lady Thatcher around her house as she talks to her dead husband's ghost ... a decidedly ill-advised approach.

It's not grossly offensive (although some might consider it to be, particularly Thatcher's family), but it seems unfair to create assumptions about the unknown private life of a frail woman in her twilight years - especially when so much of her life was documented at-length under the gaze of the public eye. What's more, the constant shifting back-and-forth in time doesn't help, forcing incredibly important periods of her premiership (such as the Falklands War) to become mere montages. That said, the Falklands sequence does add a few interesting snifters of context that are usually over-looked in other brief surveys of the time.

What also doesn't help is that her political surroundings are viewed rather vaguely - if you're unfamiliar with the members of her cabinet, or the Labour opposition at the time, you're not going to be educated here. Many of these figures are never named, and considerably important faces in her political life such as Michael Hezeltine are afforded mere minutes on-screen.

On a positive note, the production fits the bill - recreating the rough-and-tumble of the House of Commons (at the time mostly filled with crusty old white men) as well as feeding-in stock footage for authenticity (even if it only opts for the obvious scenes). However, in spite of all the disappointments that the film lobs your way, the performances are all tip-top - most of all that of Streep (surprise, surprise). She nails Mrs Thatcher's voice and - as is her way - manages to inhabit the character with aplomb, bringing weight to the otherwise weightless material.

Those looking for a serious political biopic will be disappointed, as will those on either side of the political spectrum, each looking for what they personally want for satisfaction. Top performances, but weak material. Alright.

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