Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games” has tested even the most devoted cineaste, and split audiences down in two thanks to its polarizing premise and concept. Going in to Haneke’s “Funny Games,” I frankly didn’t know what to expect, but what I did know was that it’d test every fiber of patience I had in me as a horror fanatic. Lo and behold, it did. Admittedly, I was shocked to see that I admired every single aspect of what it attempted to pull off as a narrative that acknowledges the audience and asks us if we want to turn away… or see what hideous violence unfolds.
Satoshi Kon is an artist that left behind a lasting influence, not only on the animation world, but the filmmaking world in general. Kon’s own beats and shades of surrealism can be seen in a lot of genre pictures to this day. Directors like Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan have admitted that much by paying homage with their own films. “Perfect Blue” is that groundbreaking animated masterpiece that you probably didn’t know inspired a lot of modern and contemporary filmmakers if you’ve never seen it or heard about it. Now with the new anniversary release available, there’s no time like the present to visit what is one of the most unnerving thrillers ever made.
The fact that Dwayne Johnson became one of the biggest movie stars in the world is surprising considering he comes from a long line of wrestlers, and wrestlers don’t always translate in to big movie stars. Even people like Roddy Piper, may he rest in peace, never quite became a huge star despite his talent for playing assholes and loud mouths. We can talk all day about wrestlers that never made the big leap to acting, but Johnson earned his path, starting out in bit roles and mid-level action films like “The Rundown.” Sixteen years later, it’s an underrated gem in a large line of blockbusters from “The Rock.”
Touted as “The Expendables” for horror fans, “Death House” is a huge missed opportunity that revels in its painfully derivative and clumsy premise. Ripping off “Alone in the Dark,” “Cabin in the Woods,” and yes, even “Jurassic Park,” Harrison Smith manages to do absolutely nothing with the plethora of horror stars that show up for the film. Most of the people that are promoted in the opening credits only show up for thirty seconds at a time with glorified cameos, while folks like Kane Hodder take a back seat to the bland, forgettable protagonists we’re supposed to be rooting for. By the time the movie ended I couldn’t even tell you what their names were.
Nathan Juran’s “The Deadly Mantis” is the antithesis of every single monster movie ever made. It’s aggressively boring, tedious, and doesn’t even have any kind of camp to compensate for the obvious lack of the monster. Even worse, at almost eighty minutes in length, the monster never actually rears its face on camera until about twenty five minutes in. The rest is stock footage, stock footage, and even more stock footage!
I’ve always been and will continue to be a staunch defender of John Carpenter. He’s one of my all time favorite filmmakers and even his weakest outputs have some great creativity to them. “Vampires” is fun in all its schlocky nonsense, and “Ghosts of Mars” is a fun remake of “Assault on Precinct 13” for a contemporary audience. Eighteen years later, “Ghosts of Mars” is fine C grade science fiction redeemed by Carpenter’s sharp direction, and the absolutely gorgeous Natasha Henstridge.
Charlize Theron is a woman who can play almost any role at this point and come out looking golden. She’s been able to portray so many interesting characters, and in “Long Shot” she is a beautiful politician fighting for the role of president. “Long Shot” would be a good movie if it weren’t mired in all that Judd Apatow nonsense that was very popular in the early aughts that reduces her to a cliché. There’s the frumpy man child winning the love of the ideal gorgeous woman, and there’s even the snide BFF of said woman who hates the frumpy man child at first, but then eventually learns to love him. And of course, there’s Seth Rogen who’s made a career of playing Seth Rogen once again playing Seth Rogen.
Rachel Lears’ political documentary “Knock Down the House” might appear to be a documentary exploring the campaigns of a group of women that sought to win positions in the House in Washington, but deep down it’s about hope. For too long, America has been convinced that frankly only established politicians and those within inner circles can claim positions of power. “Knock Down the House” shows how four women rose from obscurity to shake up the government, and how Alexandria Ocasio Cortez rightfully won her position as congresswoman.