BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
The Son of Pan steps to the plate for this experimental tale of experimental weirdness that follows a test subject on the run from a demented researcher. Visually, the film feels like a blur of early Lucas and Cronenberg, and the narrative is fractured and conceptual ala Kubrick’s 2001 (also a heavy influence). If people still actually made music videos, Panos Cosmatos would never want for work, as his sense of style and penchant for obtuse imagery would be a perfect fit in the short form. In this arena, however?
Well – I can promise you it’s worth watching…
SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
We can talk Deep Impact or Armageddon, Ed TV or The Truman Show, Dante’s Peak or Volcano, Drop Zone or Terminal Velocity, Tango and Cash or Liberty and Bash – and so many more dueling studio productions – but I like to think of Braveheart vs Rob Roy. Before those duelling bits of Scottish folklore were released, I knew that a film starring an intelligent actor like Liam Neeson would be a nuanced and emotionally satisfying historical drama with action elements…and that Mel Gibson would make a piece of shlock.
Whether Mel Gibson made a piece of shlock is debatable – it became very cool very quickly to claim to be so above Gibson’s film. But it cannot be denied that, even if you believe it misses the mark, Gibson is swinging for the fences in his attempt to make a glorious, gorgeous period epic…and Rob Roy comes out feeling a lot like a Seagal vehicle by comparison. Which isn’t bad…it just isn’t Braveheart.
When I learned of the dueling Snow White projects, I had a similar reaction: Mirror Mirror would be an inventive, visually sumptuous “feast for the eyes” – and Snow White and the Huntsman would be a jaded smash-and-grab also-ran.
That didn’t work out like I thought it would at all.
What felt to me like a very cynical move made in a Universal Studios boardroom (“I’ve got it – let’s give a Lord of the Rings-style makeover to a public domain fairytale with brand recognition!”), actually becomes the visual feast one hoped we’d have received from our old friend Tarsem (who made such a wonderful return to features with The Fall. Seriously, pick it up if you haven’t seen it). Because while his Mirror Mirror is so stodgy that Alan Menkin is scribbling lyrics and Julia Roberts is bored and boring as the Evil Queen, Huntsman seems like a fresh enough take that you don’t assume certain narrative beats will make it into the film – and when they do, they imbue the film with unexpected energies. At the same time, far from bland or obvious (though she does gnaw on a bit of scenery from time to time), Charlize Theron seduces and slays as the Hotchka Honcho – but she also beautifully conveys an internal grief that can be used to make the case that she is the true heart of this film.
Casting Kristen Stewart was another one of this productions cynical dick moves that, for me, payed off. I think Stewart is a solid actress in the right role, and seeing as “the right role” quite often involves her being dour and broken, every time she smiles a luminous smile in this film, it’s like we’re being let in to some secret magical world. Stewart casts aside the stammering, lip-biting, mouth-breathing Twilight ticks here and puts in work, and does much more than acquit herself. It helps that she’s never been photographed better.
Stewart is not the only one to benefit from the film’s stylistic assuredness. To my mind, there are moments worthy of a Ridley Scott or a Guillermo Del Toro or a Hayao Miyazaki here. Real visual storytelling. Rupert Sanders may have fucked the franchise, but he proves himself a talent to watch.
THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE 2
Tobe Hooper’s original Texas Chainsaw Massacre is an achievement for the ages; the drive-in explo horrorshow as a bloodless tone poem. To this day, the number TCM does on your imagination is rivaled only by Hitchcock’s Psycho.
Chainsaw’s reputation as a privileged bloodfeast was something Hooper wanted to toy with when he returned for the Lone Star Sequel. Spurred into action largely because of the payday (and the ease with which the project could come together), Hooper and co-conspirator Kit Carson built a layered, demented parody of ‘80s consumerism and conservativism, gleefully subverting genre audience expectations of the form – while also giving them exactly what they wanted (in the same way Evil Dead 2 and Re-Animator do), indicting them all along for wanting it at all. Dennis Hopper turns in a performance for the ages, Bill Moseley becomes a horror genre icon, and Caroline Williams steals your heart. This is a great little movie. Lou Perryman, R.I.P. Hope there’s a fry-house in Heaven.
Beyond the Black Rainbow
The Big Bang Theory: The Complete Fifth Season
The Cave of the Yellow Dog
The Day the Dead Walked
The Devil Inside
Dragon Ball Z Kai: Season 3
For Greater Glory
George Martin: Produced by George Martin
Ghosts of the Abyss
Killer Klowns From Outer Space
Lewis Black: In God We Rust
Metropolitan Opera: Wagner’s Dream
Snow White and the Huntsman
Spartacus: Vengeance – The Complete Second Season
Spice & Wolf: The Complete Series
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2
The Vampire Diaries: The Complete Third Season
What to Expect When You’re Expecting
Where Do We Go Now?
Of course the week I’m probably most excited about so far this year (with new releases from Dylan, the Avetts, David Byrne & St. Vincent, Patterson Hood, Raveonettes and Steve Forbert, among others) is the week I’m having surgery – and won’t really have time or opportunity for previewing new releases. Go buy something!
BOB DYLAN – TEMPEST
THE AVETT BROTHERS – THE CARPENTER
DAVID BYRNE & ST. VINCENT – LOVE THIS GIANT
OTHER NOTABLE 9/11 RELEASES:
Blaqk Audio – Bright Black Heaven
Calexico – Algiers
Daddy Yankee – Prestige
DMX – Undisputed
Firewater – International Orange
Steve Forbert – Over With You
Nelly Furtado – The Spirit Indestructible
Neil Halstead – Palindrome Hunches
Hoobastank – Fight Or Flight
Patterson Hood – Heat Lightning Rumbles in the Distance
Mark Knopfler – Privateering
Little Big Town – Tornado
Kathy Mattea – Calling Me Home
Dave Matthews Band – Away From The World
Miggs – 15th & Hope
Steve Miller, Keith Richards, Slash & Bucky Pizzarelli – Thank You Les
NOFX – Self Entitled
Amanda Palmer – Theatre Is Evil
Pet Shop Boys – Elysium
Raveonettes – Observator
Chris Robinson Brotherhood – The Magic Door
Rumer – Boys Don’t Cry
Billy Talent – Dead Silence
Joanne Shaw Taylor – Almost Always Never
Threshold – March of Progress
The xx – Coexist
ZZ Top – La Futura
TEKKEN TAG TOURNAMENT 2 (PS3, 360)
I love fighting games, and yet I don’t really care about Tekken. However, if I were going to play a Tekken game, it would no doubt be the first Tag Tournament – which is as interesting as 3D fighters get. It also had an awesome bowling mini-game. I guess the sequel could be pretty good if they added a bowling mini-game. Or Maybe a bocce ball mini-game? It is 2012 after all.
NHL 13 (PS3, 360)
The big news this year is that every Canadian citizen is playable. I’ll finally able to play as Donald Sutherland with The Oilers. Every Hockey fan’s dream.
NBA BALLER BEATS (360)
Hey, why not release a Kinect game where you have to bounce and toss a ball around ten feet from your television? Because it’s stupid.
I’m still not convinced this game is real. This trailer looks like a giant troll – or it really is the only game guaranteed to get you laid. BALLING!
The original title was NBA BALLER BEATS HIS GIRLFRIEND – but that was five words, and that didn’t really fit on the cover that well…