21 February 2010
Not every Martin Scorsese movie consists of foul-mouthed gangsters, a constantly moving camera and a soundtrack of period pop songs. That's why I'm a little confused when people make it sound like Scorsese was stepping out of his comfort zone and trying his hand at "something new."
While it is true he's never made a thriller like this before, he has tried his hand at thrillers with his remake of Cape Fear. I'm personally not a big fan of that film and I think you can trace the following it does have to Robert DeNiro hamming it up and the really awesome Simpsons parody it spawned. Still, Scorsese has already tried his hand at putting audiences on the edge of their seat with a "nail biter" movie.
None the less, despite how famous Taxi Driver and Raging Bull are, most people associate Scorsese with gangster movies. Given what a redefining film Goodfellas is, that's not necessarily a bad thing but it's still a commentary on what a limited perspective the casual movie goer can have. Maybe I'm just mad more people haven't seen After Hours. That is Scorsese's most underrated film and one of my favorites of his. It's truly an awesome movie and not enough people have taken the time to watch it (or even know it exists) but I digress.
Shutter Island is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, an author whose work has popped up in Hollywood a few times in the 2000s. Everyone's favorite curmudgeon Clint Eastwood brought Mystic River to the big screen in 2003 and Ben Affleck (!) directed the adapation of Gone Baby Gone. Mystic River wasn't a favorite of mine but so far, the guy's had a pretty good track record.
Despite some bitching by critics about the film's third act (that's admittedly where my beef lies, too), Lehane and his work is going to continue to stay in good standing as Shutter Island is a pretty good movie.
Whether you love Leonard DiCaprio or hate him, he works well with Scorsese. Gangs of New York and The Aviator have somewhat fallen by the wayside but both films had merit and their problems weren't with DiCaprio's performances. And to a lot of people, The Departed is Scorsese's best work since Goodfellas (I disagree but that harkens back to the "limited perspective" thing I referenced earlier). Anyway, given the second life their collaboration has breathed into Scorsese's career, you really can't blame them for wanting to continue to work with each other.
DiCaprio is fine here, along with Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, John Carroll Lynch, Patricia Clarkson and a slew of other good actors in small parts but the acting takes a backseat to the atmosphere, visuals and cinematography. Those are the real stars of the film.
The moody dream sequences are haunting and have a strange beauty to them. I wouldn't call the pace of the film brisk but it does suck you in as everything unfolds and DiCaprio's sanity seems to crack, which is as good a time as any to segue into the rather troubled third act.
The twist isn't anything that's going to shock you but that's not the problem. Too many films, like Identity and everything by M. Night Shyamalan rely on their twists to justify their worth as films. There's a "Wait for it...Wait for it...WAIT FOR IT!" quality to those films which often kill everything that came before it and eliminate any future replay value (at least for me). In Shutter Island, the twist is incidental. You can pretty much see it coming and despite the third act's problems, it's the logical point for the story to go to. The problem is that it's pure exposition. Kingsley and Ruffalo explain everything, they cut to DiCaprio looking freaked out, then cut back to Kingsley and Ruffalo continuing to explain everything, then cut back to DiCaprio looking freaked out. Lather, rinse, repeat. Oh, and cut to DiCaprio's flashback, which you've already figured out anyway. Small reveal at the end, boom, movie's over, end credits.
It's not necessarily bad but when you consider the imagery and the way they mounted the tension in the previous two-thirds of the film, it just feels like a step back. It's still a film that is well-worth your time. Scorsese continues to remind us why he's Martin Scorsese and well-crated thrillers are hard to come by these days. Check it out. And see After Hours, dammit.
Posted by Mike at 14:37
06 February 2010
02 February 2010
Ever since 28 Days Later, the Dawn of the Dead remake and Shaun of the Dead made zombie movies a hip kid thing again, I've had a love and hate relationship with the sub-genre. I loved the renewed interest it gave classic zombie/ undead movies by George Romero, Sam Raimi, Peter Jackson (who all had healthy followings to begin with) and to a lesser extent Lucio Fulci but I hated a lot of the dreck that followed (and this is sub-genre with an abundance of that to begin with).
And let's not forget that anytime a group of dipshits get access to decent cameras, take a guess what kind of movie they want to make? Yeah. And they all suck. I've endured enough of this bull shit on YouTube to definitively say these are hack jobs (no pun intended) at best. Bad make-up, acting, camera work and editing is just that kids, bad. Making a zombie movie is not a free ticket to cult movie stardom. But thanks for trying.
Anyway, after being disappointed with 28 Weeks Later and Romero's Diary of the Dead and putting myself through the utter piles of shit that were Fido and Hide and Creep, I pretty much swore zombie movies off.
And I think I'm right when I say this sub-genre is pretty much dead in terms of originality. I will say I enjoyed Zombieland but it's a lightweight affair all told. The movie will be remembered for how awesome Woody Harrelson is and deservedly so. He owned that movie and his co-stars were good, too. Still, in terms of zombie action, it's pretty soft.
So on to Dead Snow. This Norwegian film does have its enjoyable aspects. The film shares a lot more in common with Raimi's Evil Dead 2 and Jackson's early work than Romero-style zombies and not just because one of the characters wears a Braindead (aka Dead Alive) t-shirt. The film borrows a lot of elements from Bad Taste. The character who continually takes a beating and somehow survives (at least until the end) each encounter and literally has to hold himself together with common household items (the belt around the head in Bad Taste is replaced here by duct tape around the neck). There's also the "splattery" quality of the gore effects (which were one of this movie's strong points) and the reckless abandon to which the characters use weapons, ranging from a chainsaw to a machine gun.
And the film's main bad guy, Colonel Herzog, looked a bit like Bub the Nice Zombie from Day of the Dead. I'm guessing that's not an accident, either.
I also liked the POV shot of the girl watching herself get eaten. That was a pretty unique touch.
Overall, I didn't hate this film. I was entertained enough but I don't feel a real strong urge to revisit it ever again. Yeah, it's Nazi zombies and the gore is pretty cool but I guess I've just become too hard to please with zombie movies.
Posted by Mike at 22:03
- ▼ February (5)