Category Archives: 2002 Movie reviews

28 Days Later-2002

28 Days Later-2002

Director-Danny Boyle

Starring-Cillian Murphy, Noah Huntley

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Reviewed November 2, 2016

Grade: B+

Before the influx of zombie related horror films and television shows filled the land- arguably offset by the success of The Walking Dead series, a little film came along- now almost teetering on its influence being forgotten- that presented this genre with fresh insight and creative storytelling posing questions amid the mayhem. 28 Days Later rejuvenated this largely dormant film category with a gritty story of peril among a group of survivors spared from a deadly virus. The film is smart as it explores morality issues and the needs of society to continue.

We initially are immersed in confusion as chaos immediately ensues. After a brief prologue of a group of laboratory chimpanzees gone mad, inflicted with rage, being let loose by animal liberators, and killing all present as well as inflicting the humans, we meet a lone man named Joe- the timing is relevant as it is “28 days later” from the incident. The young man awakens in a hospital to find himself alone amid downtown London- not a soul in sight.  Fortunately, he has been in a coma and missed the crumbling of society due to an outbreak- somehow Joe has been spared. Gradually, Joe meets others uninfected by the virus and they forge through the country in search of a military base rumored to be a safe haven.

The infected humans are not zombies, but rather, violent creatures who destroy anyone in their path. The film not only presents the grotesque creatures, but also challenges the audience to think in a political sense- how will the survivors forge a new society? How will women be treated differently from and by their male counterparts in a world that now lacks any police force or government?

My initial reaction to watching 28 Days Later- years after its initial release- is that it now seems slightly dated, but that has more to do with the legions of copycat films that have come after it and have been exposed to. We have become more encompassed by this type of film, both in genre and in style. Appreciation is warranted for its gritty, fast-paced camera-work, extreme violence, and the use of “infected” who turn from human being to vicious beings.

A fantastic part of this film is that it is not simply a horror film, it is more layered than that. There are moments of great beauty and tender moments among Joe and Selena- the sole surviving female other than the young, waif-like, Hannah, whose world has been shattered by the death of her loved ones. In one sad scene a couple have peacefully committed suicide, rather than face what would surely become of them.

There is a sense of a human story in 28 Days Later, which made me find the film heartfelt and almost sweet. Even the military soldiers- their motivations questionable- are relatable based on the world being turned upside down. A layered, complex, zombie film with some character driven elements.

Irreversible-2002

Irreversible-2002

Director-Gaspar Noe

Starring-Monica Bellucci, Vincent Cassel

Top 10 Disturbing Films-#4

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Reviewed February 7, 2016

Grade: C+

As I ponder my review of Irreversible,  a 2002 French thriller and “art film”, I am attempting (as I always do) to look at the film critically, from a story and a technical standpoint, as well as a myriad of other aspects that make up a film. This is admittedly a toughie. On the surface I despised the film wholeheartedly (more on that later), but from a critical standpoint, I found characteristics to admire and give credit to. One thing is for certain- I never want to see this film again.

The story is told non-linear style and, in fact, begins at the conclusion of the story and works backwards, which I credit the film for, giving it a unique storytelling experience, cleverly done. Two Parisian friends, Marcus and Pierre, go on a rampage after Marcus’s girlfriend is brutally raped and beaten. In panic mode, they learn the name of the attacker (Le Tenia) and go to a gay BDSM club aptly named “The Rectum”, a place the attacker apparently frequents, where they fervently search for him all the while beating club-goers and causing havoc.

Since the story is told in reverse, the audience is initially in a state of confusion at the events transpiring, and the jagged, shaky camera work, a very creative technique, only adds to the chaos. We only know that two maniacs are running rampant, destroying everything in their path. Slowly, we realize what their motivation is as we work backwards. We are introduced to Alex, a beautiful young woman- in the early stages of pregnancy, who is Marcus’s steady, but used to date Pierre. They are all very good friends. We see the romance between Marcus and Alex, and, working even further backwards, we see Alex sitting alone in a park, reading a novel, and enjoying a bright, pleasant day in the park. This peaceful closing scene contrasts drastically with the rest of the dark film. The film then becomes a flashing, frenetic, black and white experience, which I do not understand.

The film is quite bizarre and intensely brutal. The rape of Alex in a dark, gloomy underpass is one of the most intense and disturbing scenes I have ever witnessed in film, and at one point I needed to leave the room briefly. The scene is ten minutes in length and Alex is anally raped and then beaten into a comatose state. It is a sickening scene and we witness her pain, misery, and humiliation first hand.

When Pierre and Marcus avenge her rape on who they think is Le Tenia, the scene is also extremely brutal. After (supposed) Le Tenia is captured by them, he attempts to rape Marcus, and Pierre grabs a fire extinguisher and bashes the victim to death as the face is repeatedly destroyed in full detail. It is a tough scene to watch.

I question the motivations of the director wholeheartedly and wonder if his intentions were to story-tell, or simply make as gruesome and shocking a film as possible. I have read that when the film was shown at the Cannes Film Festival, many people walked out of the auditorium in disgust- I can see why. Irreversible is severely homophobic, with repeated gay slurs being used throughout the gay club scenes and is also anti- Asian as evidenced by Pierre’s and Marcus’s racial slurs directed at a taxi driver.

The motivations of the character of Le Tenia make no sense to me as it is revealed he is a gay man. Why a gay man would brutally rape a female is unclear to me. This, combined with the extreme brutality, anti gay, anti minority, and anti women, render the film rather pointless from a story perspective.

My assumption after processing the film is that the director wants us to sympathize with nobody in the film, except Alex. Pierre, Marcus, certainly Le Tenia are all hateful characters. It is interesting how, at first, since the beginning is the end, the motivations of the characters are unclear and confused.

My admiration of Irreversible comes solely from the unique camera work, the clever pacing of the film in the form of backwards chapters, and the frenetic style of the opening work, however the homophobia, racism, and brutality left me cold and I could not shake the feeling that this film is shocking for the sake of being shocking, and one that I ultimately cannot applaud.

Far From Heaven-2002

Far From Heaven-2002

Director-Todd Haynes

Starring-Julianne Moore, Dennis Haysbert

Top 100 Films-#53

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Reviewed February 2, 2017

Grade: A

Far From Heaven is a gorgeous film, set in 1950’s upper class and sophisticated Connecticut, that tackles not one, but two, separate social issues, in wonderful story-telling fashion. An interracial couples fraught with discrimination, and a homosexual husband hiding his secret lifestyle encompass this amazing film by acclaimed director Todd Haynes. In years to follow, Haynes would also direct such masterpieces as the similar in time period (and story) Carol.

For starters, the cinematography and art direction are simply breathtaking- the beautiful and colorful small town in Connecticut, on the surface, prim and proper, is oozing with secrets and scandal just waiting to bubble to the surface. An aerial view of the town allows the viewer to see this perfectly carved town in sweeping motion. Far From Heaven contains many similarities to All That Heaven Allows, made in 1955, and also focusing on great scandal in a small, seemingly idyllic New England town.

Cathy Whitaker (Julianne Moore) seems to have everything-a  perfectly styled and kept home in affluent Connecticut, a successful husband named Frank (Dennis Quaid), who is an advertising executive, beauty, and a neighborhood filled with friends. One night when Frank is working late, Cathy surprises him with dinner at the office, only to be surprised herself by catching Frank passionately kissing another man. In a terribly awkward scene, Frank admits to Cathy that he needs conversion therapy, but instead turns to alcohol and continues to secretly see men. Devastated, Cathy befriends her gardener, Raymond Deagan, a handsome black man, and slowly begins a relationship with him. Needless to say, this causes gossip and scandal amongst the townspeople.

Far From Heaven is fantastic story-telling, weaving, in essence, two main social stories together. Frank questions his sexuality, afraid to admit he is gay and risking his reputation and career. Undoubtedly, he is a tormented individual and we see him slowly come to terms with his sexuality. Haynes, fantastic at crafting worthy story, carves a similar tale in 2015’s Carol, only she is a woman confident about her sexuality, but nonetheless hiding it from society. Since the time period in both films is the 1950’s, the sexual revolution had not occurred, let alone anything gay related.

The center story though belongs to Cathy and Julianne Moore portrays her to perfection. I would argue that Cathy is Moore’s best role- along with Amber Waves from Boogie Nights. Hurt and betrayed by her husband, she suddenly is filled with new and dangerous emotions- falling in love with a black man in a not very open minded time. Moore and Haysbert have fantastic chemistry from their very first scene together.

I love how Haynes showcases the perfection of the town- the lawns are perfectly mowed, the flower beds flawless, and everyone appears cheerful and colorful. But when something in their little town becomes amiss (in this case Cathy going against the grain) the fangs come out and the animals bear their teeth. A wonderful scene showcases Cathy and Raymond slow dancing in a solely black bar. They sway as one and Cathy is accepted by the black patrons. Raymond (and his daughter) are not treated the same way among the white folks of the town once they catch wind of the shenanigans going on between the interracial couple.

Far From Heaven is a beautiful film- from the way it looks and is shot, to the powerful acting performances all around. Moore may be the star and the central character of the film, but Quaid and Haysbert certainly deserve their due. They each give layered performances as wounded and tortured men- and the conclusion of the film- perceived as open ended- is also not a happily ever after climax.

 

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Blood Feat 2: All U Can Eat-2002

Director-H.G. Lewis

Starring-J.P. Delahoussaye, Christy Brown

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Reviewed June 24, 2014

Grade: B

Blood Feast 2: All U Can Eat is a sequel to the original Blood Feast from over 30 years ago. It is not necessary to see the original before seeing this film (I hadn’t). The original killer’s grandson is the gruesome caterer/maniac in this installment.

Director H.G. Lewis heavily influenced John Waters, who has a fantastic cameo as a perverted reverend. This movie is so over the top and campy it is certainly not to be taken at all seriously. The premise, if one can call it that, involves a lunatic caterer intent on using various female body parts to concoct a scrumptious meal to serve at a wedding. The film is more of a comedy than a horror film in the traditional sense. The victims are clearly bubble-heads, mispronouncing words and traipsing around in skimpy outfits (or less) for no reason. The mean spirited mother of the bride is a delight. Scenes of taste testing and the presentation of “lady fingers” are hilariously creative. Campy in every way and poorly acted, but good late night fun.