The one line that comes to mind whenever I think about the most recent installment in the Star Wars franchise is Kylo Ren imploring Rey to “let the past die.” I feel that it cuts to the heart of both the tone and the thematic framework that the movie works within, whether or not that change is for the better.
As a huge coward who has been generally soured on horror movies by more recent films that seem to only function as vehicles for as many jump scares as possible, I was a bit conflicted about going to see the new IT incarnation, despite having enjoyed the older mini-series recently. I would definitely say I was pleasantly surprised, and would compare it to this commercial that showed before the movie: unnerving, alien, and hilarious.
While this Fall will bring with it a host of promising movies, the new adaptation of Stephen King’s It being among them, what I’m perhaps the most excited for are the advance screenings of two movies related to the famous Tommy Wiseau: The Disaster Artist playing at the Toronto Film Festival on September 11 and 12 and Best F(r)iends at the Prince Charles Cinema on September 4.
For those not in the know, Tommy Wiseau was the lead actor, writer, director, and producer of the cult classic The Room, which enjoys success to this day in the form of screenings with appearances by the actors and audience rituals reminiscent of those performed by fans of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Although it could be argued that The Room has been his most famous achievement so far, Tommy Wiseau has lent his talents to the short film The House That Drips Blood on Alex, a television series called The Neighbors, and even a number of web series and interviews that can be found on YouTube.
The Disaster Artist, which will be directed by and starring James Franco and Dave Franco as Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestero respectively, is an adaptation of actor Greg Sestero’s book chronicling his experiences as one of the lead actors of Wiseau’s pet project. Best F(r)iends, on the other hand, will herald the first return of Sestero and Wiseau in the same film. Sestero will play a drifter who is taken in by mortician Wiseau to help with an illegal scheme to take advantage of his funerary customers, but, in the words of the cinema’s own website, “greed, hatred, and jealousy soon come in turn” to unravel their efforts and set in motion a series of twists and turns in this dark comedy thriller.
As someone who is not only interested in the history behind movies in general, but also a fan of The Room and someone who couldn’t put down Sestero’s book, I’m looking forward to both the comedy and intrigue in the Francos’ representation of The Disaster Artist. Meanwhile, it will be good to get another taste of Wiseau’s unique acting abilities in Best F(r)iends despite his lack of input in the directing and script, although it will be interesting to see Sestero’s performance in a different environment.
For those who haven’t seen The Room, you can find it for relatively cheap or try to navigate the official website to find screenings near you to prepare for The Disaster Artist’s release this December. Best F(r)iends isn’t scheduled to be in local theaters until 2018, but you can get an early look in this exclusive clip:
After a long, hard weekend of scouring Netflix, I’m back again to talk about movies I’ve never seen as if I had some kind of authority on the subject. For this installment, I decided to search for something that could justify the “retro” in my title. After avoiding the temptation of watching a movie I’ve already seen and scrolling past some other well-known films, I came across Heathers.
This is a title that wasn’t too familiar to me, and its casual mention of suicide and listing as a dark comedy had me intrigued. It’s also listed under “Cult Movies,” although its inclusion alongside The Iron Giant and three different installments of the Sharknado franchise has me questioning what that really means, if anything. Unlike the last movie, Heathers is an American movie, written by Daniel Waters and directed by Michael Lehmann. Fans of recent TV shows will recognize the stars Christian Slater and Winona Ryder, who’ve each gotten a Golden Globe for their performances in Mr. Robot and Stranger Things respectively.
Ryder plays Veronica, who puts up with the company of the three eponymous Heathers in order to be a part of the most popular clique in her high school. While she’s not alone in hating the Heathers, Veronica stays with them until she meets the mysterious transfer student Jason, played by Slater. The movie continues to portray a typical high school setting, including levels of swearing, drinking, and sex one would expect of an actual high school rather than of one portrayed in a movie, until the tragic suicide of Heather Chandler.
Netflix’s categorization of this movie as a dark comedy was pretty appropriate; the dialogue before, during, and after these “suicides” is filled with irreverent dry wit. What was really surprising was that the movie was also able to deliver tense moments that could be genuinely unnerving as well, although those tended to be relatively short-lived. All of the stereotypes one would expect from a high school movie were there, but they were taken to their extremes and used to make statements not only about social structures and cliques, but about a wide array of topics including homophobia and bullying. The stereotypes and other motifs, such as the color associations of the Heathers group and reoccurring conversational structures, persist through the dramatic events of the film in order to both parody them and to highlight their ever-present influence. To be fair, though, reading too far into things is another thing that is mercilessly made fun of in this movie.
If you’ve read this far, it’s probably safe to say that you can tell that I enjoyed this movie, and I’m not alone. 95% of critics gave Heathers a positive review according to Rotten tomatoes, and Roger Ebert gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars. The movie even managed to achieve one of the highest honors of any modern work: having a musical made out of it. If I had to choose something to complain about, it would be that the soundtrack was lackluster even without its noticeable aging. That said, Slater’s and Ryder’s performances were a pleasure to watch, the writing for the jokes was consistently hilarious, and there were even some cool visual elements and details to enjoy throughout.
I apologize for another positive review, and for it being of another movie that definitely isn’t family-friendly, but if you’re in the mood for some dry, morbid humor, there are worse high school movies that you could choose.
For those who are constantly badgered by friends to watch older movies that you just never got around to watching, Netflix is a godsend. I find myself in the same boat pretty often, with some people acting almost insulted that I haven’t seen one classic or another, so in a desperate attempt to stay relevant I’ve recently been trying to find the time to go through the older movies on Netflix that have passed me by as yet more and more movies make their way to an easily accessible platform. 2003 is already over ten years ago now, so I think that this movie qualifies.
Scrolling through Netflix, the title Oldboy caught my eye because of some vague recollection of a friend saying how much he hated the movie because of its ending. Granted, this is the same friend who rewatches The Dark Knight Rises at least once a week, so I was already prepared for a difference of opinion. Before I continue, I’d also like to note that the movie on Netflix is the 2003 film directed by Park Chan-wook, not the 2013 American remake by Spike Lee. This means that the entire movie is in Korean with English subtitles, but their pacing makes them easy to read compared to some other foreign works. I’m looking at you, The Tatami Galaxy.
Based off of a manga by Garon Tsuchiya and Nobuaki Minegishi, Oldboy is the second installment of The Vengeance Trilogy, which should give you an idea of what sort of themes it deals with. Oh Dae-su is kidnapped on while he is out drinking instead of attending his daughter’s birthday and ends up held hostage in a hotel room for fifteen years. After learning that he has been framed for his wife’s murder, Dae-su clings to his sanity by training to fight, digging a hole in the wall to freedom, and planning his revenge on the one responsible for his imprisonment. However, just as he manages to break through the wall of the building, his room fills with gas, and when he wakes up he finds himself on a rooftop in the city. The movie continues as a thriller in which Dae-su, accompanied by a young sushi chef, goes on a hunt for the man who imprisoned him and the reason why. These scenes of intrigue are punctuated by the occasional outbreak of graphic violence or sexuality, so I wouldn’t recommend this film for younger audiences.
This work is visually enthralling from start to finish, playing with perspectives using mirrors, phone and computer screens, and different shots being shown at the same time. The choreography in the fights is also a pleasure to watch due in part to the fact that Choi Min-sik, the actor who plays Dae-su, did most of his own stunt work. Additionally, his portrayal of a man driven to desperation and insanity shines in its contrast to Yoo Ji-tae’s acting in the role of Dae-su’s adversary Lee Woo-jin, who is meticulous, obsessive, and possessive. The man bites the head off of a live octopus, and I loved every minute of it.
As far as themes go, Oldboy is far more introspective about revenge and the search for truth than other thrillers in recent memory. The tendency for revenge to be consuming but ultimately unsatisfying is touched on throughout the film, and it is portrayed as competing with the pursuit of truth even to the point of making one lose sight of which truth he should find. The nature of memories themselves also play a large role in the work; their distortion, manipulation, and loss, natural and unnatural, are key to the central conflict. Each character is troubled by their own personal demons, and even if they are viewed as insignificant in the eyes of others, they have wide-reaching consequences.
As far as the plot goes, I enjoyed this movie as a thriller especially because the main character isn’t some kind of professional killer or unbeatable martial artist. Dae-su is a man who was past his physical prime even before the events of the movie, and no amount of physical training was able to wipe away the toll of fifteen years of isolation. He’s able to beat up his fair share of henchmen, sure, but he also suffers his fair share of injuries and fainting in the process. The mystery was intriguing even after the identity of the imprisoner is revealed, and while the ending definitely has some controversial elements, its twisted version of poetic justice and its bittersweet result bring about a satisfying if somewhat open-ended conclusion. There were even some genuinely comedic moments sprinkled throughout the film to provide a stark contrast to its brutality.
At least I take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in enjoying Oldboy, despite the opinions of one or two personal friends. The critics of Rotten Tomatoes gave this movie scores that averaged out to 80 out of 100%, which is only 7% below The Dark Knight Rises and, tellingly, almost twice the score of the newer adaptation of Oldboy. I would definitely suggest waiting until any kids (or, if you’re a rebel watching movies above your suggested age rating, parents) are definitely asleep before starting it up, but if you don’t mind its graphic nature and having to read subtitles for about two hours, then it is definitely one of the better thrillers available on Netflix.