Making a Western in the eighties must have seemed a bold idea. Making… MoreMaking a Western in the eighties must have seemed a bold idea. Making a camp, farcical, musical one with a female impersonator in the lead may have been outright foolhardy. Lust in the Dust is a film that on the surface should be a delight; a mixture of the high camp grotesquerie and satire that has served John Waters wayward work so well combined with the independent spirit and nose for contemporary issues in a grindhouse package that had produced such films as Eating Raoul and Death Race 2000 for director Paul Bartel.
When strong thighed Chanteuse Rosie Velez (Divine) arrives in the small desert backwater of Chilli Verde with her savior Abel Wood (Hunter), a mystery surrounding missing gold, a limerick and the existence of two tattooed buttocks unfolds. Add a rivalry between Rosie and the pneumatically upholstered Marguerita Ventura (Kazan) that could turn murderous and a gang of outlaws arriving on the scene also looking for the treasure and revenge. The plot is well worn, all the better to hang a series of set pieces, which, depending on your tolerance for high camp and the dubious charms of Divine as both an actor and singer, is either nails on the blackboard excruciating or a gay delight.
The problem is that the film seems so geared towards cult status, aiming for a raucous 42nd street or Scala Cinema crowd that positively demands interaction. It goes for bad taste but Bartel's film chops are too skilled to make a deliberately grubby movie.What you get is a mixture of sub par Carry On innuendo mixed with a rich visual aesthetic that wouldn't disgrace a mainstream Western ( The films title comes from the nickname for the film Duel in the Sun, scandalously sexy and cleavage heaving in its day). The authenticity also stretches to the casting of such familiar faces as Juliette's dad and long time Clint Eastwood collaborator Geoffrey Lewis and John Ford regular Woody Strode. Throw in gimlet eyed character actor Henry Silva and one time Batman nemesis Cesar Romero and you have no lack of named performers who can do this stuff in their sleep. Even Tab Hunter is giving it his full Clint impression as Abel Wood.
Made as a showcase for Divine, who had previously worked with Hunter on Polyester, the former Harris Glen Milstead has always been an acquired taste. Briefly hitting the UK charts with a cover of the song "Walk Like a Man", but mostly known for her work with John Waters and in particular the original version of Hairspray. In Lust in the Dust the mixture of high camp and low brow comedy clashes with the labored drag schtick that Divine peddles here. Always working best as part of an ensemble, Waters always managed to bring the best out of her. Waters likes his grotesques and is unafraid to put them front and center, aiming his barbs at a square society that values surface over character, and if he can get someone to eat a dog turd on camera then all the better. You can tell Divine has gone mainstream with this Western, no fresh steamer here, a clearly fake dead vulture is as stomach turning as it gets.
In the end, what we have is a film uncertain in its approach. Afraid of letting itself go. It wants to be vulgar but not to disgust. It wants to flame and be camp, but not so it offends or be too flagrant in its homosexuality. It's trying to be good bad taste and no one wants that. Or to put it another way, don't feed me a Mars bar and tell me it's dog shit.
(Review by Jason Abbey)
"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." The famous… More"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." The famous quote, long attributed to Plato but more recently thought to have come from Scottish author Ian MacLaren, may not be one you might readily associate with an action movie, but on the evidence of Homefront it's easy to imagine screenwriter Sylvester Stallone having it pinned above his writing desk.
Sold to us as yet another moronic Jason Statham six pack and jerky romp, Homefront may reference trash classics like Roadhouse and Gator through its character names but it's as a film it has more in common with the contemplative westerns of Henry Hathaway. It's the best revisionist action movie since George Armitage's great 1976 Vigilante Force.
Stallone's script is more concerned with the broken spirit of recession era America than the broken bones of its villains. Starting off in familiar territory (seemingly crooked sheriff, white trash villains, hero with a violent past he's trying to leave behind), the turning point comes when Broker confronts Hester's apparently villainous redneck about a break in at his house. Hester denies any knowledge, his face exuding the fear of a man struggling to raise a family in 2013 America, and we believe him. Suddenly the rug has been pulled out from under us. This is a film that isn't going to make for easy viewing. The bullying kid, whose bloodied nose we initially cheered, turns out to be a special needs child. Those other five cans may not go down so easily.
Stallone and director Gary Fleder expose the prejudice toward working class rural white characters that American film-makers have shamefully ingrained in us over the past half a century. When we meet the de-glammed Bosworth and her grease-stained hubby Hester, we immediately mark them as the movie's villains but, like most working class Americans today, they're simply pawns in a game run by more powerful forces. Several times Fleder's camera pans away from the adult hysteria to the pained faces of his character's children. It's testament to Stallone and Fleder that this doesn't come off as unintentionally hilarious, like the cutaways to victims' families in Austin Powers.
When Stallone's name appeared as screenwriter (adapting Chuck Logan's novel), several chortles could be heard in the theater. It's easy, of course, to forget this is the writer who gave us Rocky and skillfully adapted David Morell's First Blood for the screen. Here he gives us a father and daughter relationship between Statham and Vidovic that's as warm and likable as Rocky and Adrienne, but there's also the sense that Bosworth and Hester's struggling parents represent Rocky and Adrienne if things hadn't gone so well for the iconic couple.
Stallone finished penning his script just before the death of his son, Sage, and unlike Rocky Balboa, which pinned the blame for its failed father/son dynamic on its protagonist's son, here it's the father character who comes to realize he may have to be the one to change.
The film's biggest stumbling block is its biggest selling point: Statham. This is a truly American movie and Statham's cockney drawl constantly snaps you out of the situation. Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson would have been ideal for this part, having showed us in recent years he's both an intimidating presence and a credible actor.
In a year filled with the cruel collateral damage of garbage like Man of Steel and Fast & Furious 6, where "little people" are merely disposable props to be destroyed by larger than life "heroes", Homefront is an important dog-ear in the pages of the maligned action movie.
(Review by Eric Hillis)
Park Chan-Wook's original caused quite a stir upon its release a… MorePark Chan-Wook's original caused quite a stir upon its release a decade ago, thanks mainly to three memorably disturbing moments: a savagely brutal one-take fight, a queasy final plot twist and the eating of a live octopus. It probably says a lot about western sensibilities that it's the latter of the three that has been excised from Lee's remake. The other two moments remain but are handled, like every element of the film, in clumsy fashion.
The extended one-take fight suffers here from bland and unconvincing choreography. The stock villains employ that groan inducing tactic of attacking Brolin one by one rather than overpowering him with a mass attack and the CG effects snap you out of the moment. Seriously, are there no stuntmen anymore in America?
The film features that rarity, a sex scene that manages to be integral to the plot. Unlike the lengthy and graphic couplings of Blue is the Warmest Colour, which added little to the story, the sex scene here is the most pivotal moment in Oldboy's plot but it's glossed over like an afterthought. I can't think of a sex scene so important in terms of a film's narrative since 1984's Terminator and this should be the most passionate and graphic sex scene in Hollywood's prudish history. Lee and screenwriter Mark Protosevich, who seems particularly clueless when it comes to showing rather than telling, fail in the crucial task of selling the relationship between Brolin and Olsen, a young voluntary nurse who accompanies him on his quest for revenge and retribution. The sex scene seems to comes out of nowhere and simply isn't believable.
Someone needs to explain the aging process to Lee. At the movie's beginning, Brolin appears to be roughly 40 but upon his release 20 years later he doesn't seem to have aged a day. The same goes for the rest of the characters. This is indicative of the general lack of attention and care put into this cash-in production. Lee has said his film isn't a remake of Park Chan-Wook's, rather a reinterpretation of the source Manga comic. Odd then how much of the Korean auteur's style he attempts, and fails, to replicate.
(Review by Eric Hillis)
A psychosexual horror thriller about an anatomically correct anatomy… MoreA psychosexual horror thriller about an anatomically correct anatomy medical dummy should be loads of tacky fun. In the hands of Sandor Stern's stolid direction we get a thriller melodrama that is a crossbreed of Psycho and Magic with the syrupy sheen of a made for TV Hallmark film.
Based on the novel by Andrew Neiderman (who also wrote "John Grisham meets The Omen" thriller Devil's Advocate, which itself was loosely readapted for film as an Al Pacino blackly comic ham-fest), Pin tells the story of Ursula (Preston) and Leon (Hewlett), raised in quiet suburban seclusion by their father Dr Linden (O'Quinn) and mother (Mantel). Dr Linden has a facility with ventriloquism which he uses to give a voice and character to Pin, the anatomist dummy in his office. By turns enrapturing his children and using Pin as a means of bestowing wisdom and lessons, all is well. However, as the Linden children grew up, Ursula may have developed a taste for parties and teenage sexual encounters, but Leon has grown an unhealthy attachment to Pin that may spark into tragedy.
The loss of identity and split personality themes fit the thriller genre like a glove; De Palma has pretty much made a career out of it. Pin may tread well worn ground, but it does develop its characters and has a genuine air of melancholy. This is a movie where the writing is much better than the direction. Stern is an old hand at television and in this, his only cinema release, he doesn't transcend the medium; the whole movie feels shackled. It politely mumbles itself through such queasy scenes as Leon witnessing his own sisters abortion performed by their father, and the increasingly unhealthy sibling relationship is too discreet, as if in fear of losing a TV sponsor. Ursula may also be the most wholesome good time girl in all of cinema; when Stern does embrace bad taste with a scene involving a nurse having sex with Pin (which implies he's anatomically correct in all the right places) we get a hint of the febrile psychosexual delight this could have been.
Its failings as a horror movie are also what differentiates it from most of its ilk. By empathizing so deeply with Leon it stages events as tragedy, a gradual erosion of the person with every act he commits, rather than horror set piece. Leon may be doing monstrous things but he is never viewed as a monster. The performances are all uniformly good, although O'Quinn has a hard time removing the shackles of The Stepfather, his doctor father here seeming just a little too sinister.
In the end this is a tragedy hiding in horror clothing, a film ending on a grace note of sadness rather than winking at a possible sequel. You just wish it was directed with a little more brio. Like its lead actress, it wants to be slutty but is a little too Laura Ashley for its own good.
(Review by Jason Abbey)
The appeal of the found footage genre is obvious; filmmakers use the… MoreThe appeal of the found footage genre is obvious; filmmakers use the appearance of low budget means as a way to deliver a film that will be perceived as real footage, like something the viewer could have filmed.
Most of the time they rely on word of mouth and the general belief that the shocking or terrifying footage captured is real, but where the film's success hinges is in how little the audience knows about what they are about to see. This is important to keep in mind before watching films of the genre because once you know the truth about the film's authenticity you lose a lot of the magic.
Enter The Upper Footage, a found footage film that had such an effective combination of hype and documentary-esque set up that I fell for everything hook, line and sinker. I found myself captivated by the idiotic, drug and alcohol-induced exploits of a group of rich young friends on the night that changes their lives forever. It begins with titles explaining the rumors and reputation of the socialites involved, especially regarding their excessive drug use, by way of videos that randomly appear and disappear online. Once the actual footage begins, we meet a group of rich friends who are trying to get some drugs. After stopping at a few clubs, one guy returns to the limo with a girl, Jackie, whose face, we're told, is blurred out to protect the identity of the girl's surviving family.
After they get what they wanted, they head back to one of their huge penthouse apartments where they drink and snort the night away. This is where the evening of ignorant, clichéd, douchebag behavior hits a high (or low, depending on your perspective) and the shit hits the fan after Jackie overdoses face down in the toilet.
Obviously, common sense should tell them to stop recording everything they say and do and destroy the tape, if they have any real expectations to get out of the situation without getting in any trouble. Apparently, cocaine alters your thought processes though, because they decide they have to keep recording everything so they can get their stories straight in case there is an investigation. Needless to say, they are not the brightest or moralistic of people.
This leads into the film's biggest problem, or perhaps its most believable asset: the fact that the characters are the same type of self absorbed, entitled and morally ambiguous people that have become "famous for being famous" on crappy reality television shows. While watching, I found that the more their personalities annoyed me, the more I was drawn into believing everything was real. After hearing the footage wasn't real, I sort of felt like an idiot for believing everything like I did, but because of the hype and setup I was too invested to believe it wasn't real. Maybe I am more gullible than I thought, but the fact that I didn't care for or have anything in common with a single character and still felt compelled to see how far things would go is a testament to how effective the found footage genre can be.
(Review by Andy Comer)