Friday, April 15, 2016


DEADPOOL ~ You know all the hype surrounding the release of Mad Max: Fury Road? How so many critics and reviewers claimed that it "revolutionized the form" and "redefined the action film"? Personally, although I enjoyed it, I didn't see what all the fuss was about. Deadpool, on the other hand, lived up to its hype and more.

Tonally perfect with its deft blend of slapstick comedy and ferocious, R-rated violence, the acting and characterizations, the overall look, the choreography, the set-pieces, the attention to the tiniest of details, and the sophisticated (for this genre) non-linear narrative, all combine to make Deadpool the most successful comics-to-movie adaptation in the history of the genre.

Furthermore, playing off Ryan Reynolds' comedic running commentary as an in-context symptom of his mental illness (note that he never breaks the fourth wall until he undergoes the horrific, torturous process that awakens his mutant powers) was probably the masterstroke in a movie jam-packed with strokes of subversive genius... and other kinds of subversive stroking, as well.

Just a brilliant, gonzo, fucked up and fucking awesome love letter to everything Fredric Wertham tried to warn us away from. I don't even care that this movie's planet-cracking popularity is making that poopy-head Rob Liefeld rich beyond the wildest dreams of mortal man. Deadpool is that freaking good.


FILTH ~ British director Jon Baird's adaptation of Irvine "Trainspotting" Welsh's novel about a dirty Scottish copper using every diabolical trick in his prodigious metaphorical book in order to secure a promotion certainly lives up to its title.

Filth pretty much wallows in the kind of hyper-stylized, surrealistic, boundary-pushing depravity that we've come to expect from the latest wave of post-whatever UK filmmakers.

All the increasingly familiar elements are here: the unreliable narrator, the constant breaking of the fourth wall, occasional bursts of 'zany' hijinx up to and including wacked-out animation, irony up the wazoo, etc.

Like the aforementioned Trainspotting, Filth's evolutionary predecessors definitely includes the likes of Nicholas Winding Refn's Bronson, Jon Glazer's Sexy Beast, and goes all the way back to Lindsay Anderson's ...if, Stanley Kubrick's Clockwork Orange, and (believe it or not) A Hard Day's Night.

In fact, Baird wears his Kubrick fetish on his sleeve, complete with a couple of direct references (a 2001 poster makes a surprise appearance at one point), which I, of course, enjoyed. However, depending on your level of Kubrick fandom, your mileage may vary. In fact, I'll be posting a detailed rundown of all the Kubrick references in Filth in an upcoming essay for my Kubrick blog,

While Filth may be a bit much for most viewers - it's most definitely not a date film - I found it to be a sufficiently entertaining diversion, and James McAvoy acquits himself well in a somewhat risky role.

For fans of violent, transgressive, gleefully nasty British crime movies, the decision to buy, rent, or download Filth most likely won't result in regret. Who knows? You might even learn a little something about yourself by the end of it!

THE INVITATION ~ Don't let the emerging and highly exaggerated narrative of director Karyn Kusama's allegedly poor treatment at the hands of film industry types sour you to The Invitation's myriad cinematic charms. This tightly wound, slow burn thriller is a virtual clinic on how to evoke and sustain paranoia, and build level upon level of suspense.

The film starts with a couple, Will and Kira, driving to a party in the Hollywood hills. Neither one seems overjoyed to be attending. It turns out to be a dinner party put together by Will's ex, Eden, who has since married Dave, a music producer. Many of the former couple's friends have been invited to the house, along with a few new friends that Eden and Dave (whom we learn had a serious drug habit) met during some kind of New Age style "healing" retreat in Mexico.

As the party begins and the narrative unfolds, we learn that Will and Eden's marriage ended in tragedy upon the accidental death of their young son, Ty, and Eden's subsequent attempted suicide.

At one point, Eden and Dave bust out a videotape featuring what they consider to be a beautiful, transcendent moment from their Mexican retreat. It goes over poorly, with one guest describing the behavior on display as being cult-like. Dave and Eden decide to lighten the mood with a grown-up variation on the game of Truth or Dare. Once again, this only serves to freak out one of the more sensitive guests. In fact, The Invitation works best when it dramatizes the potentially disastrous consequences of ignoring danger signals in favor of maintaining an even social keel.

I can't say much more about this film without spoiling it, so let me just conclude by telling you that it begins and ends with a bang, and takes you on one hell of a ride in between, coming damn close to greatness in the process.

THE BORDERLANDS ~ Found footage horror movies and mockumentaries are a weakness of mine. From the gloriously ridiculous This Is Spinal Tap to Peter Watkins' incredible and essential Punishment Park, there's just something about the conceit and the format of the mock documentary that grabs hold of my attention and refuses to let go. One of my favorite films of the last few years is What We Do in the Shadows, which is kind of a Spinal Tap for Kiwi vampires. So feel free to read the rest of this review keeping my prejudice in mind. If you hate found footage movies, then don't even bother continuing to read. 

Now that that's out of the way, am I saying that The Borderlands succeeds to the degree that any of the above-mentioned films do? No, I am not, and no, it doesn't. What it is, however, is a pretty solid, well-acted, beautifully shot indie horror flick that is well worth 90 minutes of your time.

The story is fairly straightforward. The Vatican sends a trio of priests to a remote Scottish village to investigate a miracle that has allegedly taken place in an ancient church there. The event was partially caught on video, so the team has been instructed to outfit the church (and their rental house, for some reason) with a battery of cameras. They're even forced to wear go-pros wherever they go. The whole thing plays out like an extended game of Call of Cthulhu, that classic table top, pen and paper, role-playing game that was at the heart of the 80's Lovecraft revival.

It also ends on a note that will either leave you stunned, paralyzed, and shocked in utter, mind-numbing terror... or rolling your eyes in derision. It all depends on your level of personal investment in the characters, and maybe also on your propensity for connecting the various narrative and sub-textual dots, as well as your susceptibility to the eldritch lure of Lovecraftian awe. Personally, for me, it worked like gangbusters. Highly recommended!


Where to Watch: iTunes, Amazon, Charter, Comcast, Google Play, DirecTV, Playstation, SuddenLink, Time Warner, Verizon FIOS, Vudu, XBOX.

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