From My DVD Shelf: A Lonely Place to Die

A couple of weeks ago, I pulled my unopened Blu-ray of A Lonely Place to Die off the shelf. I didn’t really know much about it other than it was a mountain-climbing survival thriller starring Melissa George. I’m fine with all of those things, so I decided it was time to give it a watch.

A Lonely Place to Die opens with 5 friends on a mountain-climbing excursion in the Scottish Highlands. After a balls-intense opening sequence that completely wiped mountain climbing off my to-do list (and let’s face it, mountain climbing was never that high on it, but still), they discover a young Serbian girl buried in a box underground. She has been given a bottle of water and the box is equipped with a breathing pipe, so whoever put her down there wanted to keep her alive. They free her, wonder who could possible have put her down there and why, and then proceed to attempt to get her to safety.

Enter her kidnappers – a couple of tough-guys who make kidnapping and ransom their business. What follows is a treacherous chase down the mountain and into a nearby village. Right about this time, we cut to a Serbian man who works for the girl’s underworld father and the guys he has hired to help him in the negotiations with the kidnappers. And suddenly our survival tale switches gears and becomes a crime-thriller.

I was totally on board in act one. The mountain climbing shit was uber-suspenseful and quite terrifying. I’m not lying when I say that at one point, I put my arms over my head to protect myself from the falling rocks that were threatening the safety of Melissa George. It was that intense.

But it started falling a bit flat when we transitioned out of survival thriller and into gangster film. I just didn’t find it as compelling, and I thought the two aspects didn’t mesh together very well. Maybe if it had played as a crime-thriller from the start, rather than opening as a wilderness survival tale, the transition would have gone smoother. But I felt like we were being asked to switch gears rather quickly, and the place we wound up just wasn’t as interesting as where we started.

I guess the end result is that I probably wouldn’t strongly recommend this movie, but I wouldn’t chase you away from it either. The uneven tone makes the experience a little disappointing, but it’s not a total waste of time either. And certainly not the first 30 minutes. The mountain terror alone goes a long way in making it worth the time.

Review: The Dark Knight Rises

I saw The Dark Knight Rises twice over the weekend, and can officially report that I liked it. It was a quality story (though not perfect) that provided a fitting end to this trilogy. My first viewing was on Friday night, in a packed, excited house. It was a ton of fun, but the anticipation level, the dense plot, the theater’s too butch sound system (it was cranked up to accommodate the deep, base-y score and sound effects, and managed to flatten out a ton of the dialogue so we missed a bunch of lines) and the weird, kind of moleste-y date happening next to me (more on that in a minute) necessitated a second viewing. The second time around, awesome.

Quick aside: Dudes – when you’re on a date, and your date takes your arm off her shoulders and puts it back on your lap, take the fucking hint. Don’t wait 30 seconds and then try to hold her hand, or put your hand on her knee, or try to rub her back (or all of the above). It’s fucking creepy. This guy wasn’t being domineering or predatory – he was just really awkward – but all the same, fucking creepy. And his date wasn’t into it. And also fucking distracting to the rest of the audience (me). It’s BATMAN! Just watch the damn movie.

Okay, on to The Dark Knight Rises. I enjoyed it. Thumbs up. It took me two viewings for all of the pieces to fall into place, but now I can confidently say that it was good. It wasn’t GREAT, but it was good, and I thought its failings didn’t hinder the overall effect. The Dark Knight Rises picks up eight years after the events of The Dark Knight, with Batman having disappeared from the city streets, and without Batman to keep him going, Bruce Wayne has become a recluse. The decision made by Batman and Gordon to lionize Harvey Dent has had mixed results, with the city continuing to worship its fallen hero, and the passing of the Dent Act, which has allowed Gotham to clean up its streets in a less than ideal method (by not allowing criminals parole). Batman is pulled back into action with the arrival of Bane, a mercenary and former member of the League of Shadows.

The character work was once again great. Bale, Oldman and Freeman stepped back into their roles perfectly, and the new additions to the cast did well. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great as a young cop struggling within the confines of the system. I particularly loved what Tom Hardy did with Bane. He was huge, intimidating, and yet, very restrained. He was actually a very good follow-up villain to Ledger’s Joker, in that he was the complete opposite. Bain was focused, methodical, and very reserved. He never joked, he stated things plainly – he was always very focused and cold, which is what made him threatening.

And Michael Caine. Jesus Christ, Michael Caine was awesome.

Granted, it’s not perfect. There were several points that I wanted to see drawn out that were kind of skipped over: I wanted to see more development of Selina Kyle’s character – her background, what brought her to this point, etc. I wanted a scene at the beginning that explained a little more thoroughly Gordon’s regret with lying about Dent’s character. We left off at the end of The Dark Knight thinking this was the most brilliant move ever, and open The Dark Knight Rises with Gordon all set to make a speech detailing the truth – I would have liked to have known more at that point about why this decision had caused him 8 years of regret.

I just wanted more – but I understand why a lot of this stuff was left out. They had a ton of ground to cover and were already fighting against a pretty epic run-time, so stuff had to be cut. I get it. But doing so did leave some aspects of the film under-developed.

That being said, I did really enjoy the film, and thought it was a good end to the Nolan/Bale Batman story. I didn’t think it was as good as The Dark Knight, but let’s be honest here – was it ever going to be? As soon as this film was announced, I was kind of dreading it. Batman Begins was awesome, and Nolan took it to a completely different level with The Dark Knight. How the hell do you even begin to top that? How do you top Ledger’s performance with The Joker? You can’t. It’s that simple. That was a brilliant film. I was afraid that even trying to top it would bring the entire mountain down.

So as the release got closer, I somehow managed to find an anticipation level that was excited, yet tempered. Given everything this film had to balance, I thought it did a good job. It wasn’t perfect. It wasn’t even as tight as what we have typically come to expect from Nolan, but I think it did deliver. Plot holes bug me as much as the next person, but the overall tone of a film and its emotional resonance can be enough to carry it through for me, and for The Dark Knight Rises, the themes of heroism, legacy and Batman as a symbol were enough to bring it past the less-than-perfect plot to deliver an awesome experience.

I don’t really know what happens from here though. Obviously, nobody wants to talk about reboots yet (but I’m sure someone at Warner Bros has already mentioned it at least once), but Batman has been around in one form or another for decades. There will always be more Batman. And whoever takes up the helm next has some huge-ass shoes to fill. I don’t know what direction the character and the story go from here. I have really loved the way Nolan took the fantasy of the comic and grounded it firmly in our world. As much as I loved The Avengers and everything that Marvel had done with those properties, it is also cool to have a hero that isn’t total fantasy. One that could exist in the world we live in. And that is what this incarnation of Batman gave us. I’m not sure what the next step in the development of the story is, but I’m sure we’ll find out in a few years.  And as long as Joel Shumacher isn’t behind the wheel, I will probably be fine with it.

From My DVD Shelf: Some Guy Who Kills People

After catching all the Twitter buzz, I sat down this weekend to check out Some Guy Who Kills People. I had seen the trailer a few months ago, and had all but forgotten it (which was very wrong of me). Thankfully, Twitter was kind enough to remind me. It was 90 minutes well-spent.

Some Guy Who Kills People follows the story of Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan). Recently out of a mental hospital following a nervous breakdown and working a low-level job at an incredibly technicolor ice cream shop, Boyd fills his days with simply getting by. He lives with his cynical mother (Karen Black) and spends his free time drawing comic sketches, but has little ambition beyond just trying to maintain a rudimentary level of the status quo. He doesn’t really exist in the world that surrounds him – only sort of on the periphery. His only friend, Irv (Leo Fitzpatrick), keeps him company during his days at the ice cream shop, while his boss spend his spare time trying to stomp the two of them down.

The clouds seem to part as he makes two important connections outside his monotonous bubble – the first in the form of love interest Stephanie (Lucy Davis), and the other in his estranged eleven-year-old daughter, Amy (Ariel Gade). As Boyd begins to find the courage to pursue these new relationships, we see his world start to open up.

It’s not all sunshine and daisies though. One afternoon, while on Party Duty (which means he has to sell ice cream out of a cart while wearing a giant ice cream cone suit), Boyd comes face to face with a man who, with a group of equally asshole friends, spent his teen years bullying and tormenting Boyd, ultimately causing the breakdown that sent him away to begin with. Another breakdown seems imminent, as the confrontation stirs up all kinds of anger and malice in Boyd, and soon, the grown-up douchebags begin succombing to violent deaths.

Written by Ryan Levin and directed by Jack Perez, Some Guy Who Kills People is a horror-comedy that mostly keeps the horror in the background. There is little suspense, no jumps, and while the gore is certainly central to the more horrific scenes, it’s not being rubbed in your face. This kind of makes it sound like a fail on the horror front, but it really isn’t. This film plays the horror and comedy in a way that you don’t typically see. The focal point is more on the character of Boyd and the emotional turns his life is taking. It’s a really sweet film about a lost man struggling to find a place in the world.

That being said, it does absolutely have some early ‘80’s slasher DNA running through it – particularly once you get into the third act. This flick is a little different because it plays within the boundaries of a slasher film, but from a different angle than what we’re used to seeing. The victims are not our hero group, and we don’t spend time in the film waiting and fearing what will imminently befall them. The traditional focus on the killing is eschewed in favor of spending time with Boyd and experiencing his life right alongside him.

The cast balances the various tones of this movie perfectly. Corrigan is great in the role of Boyd. Most viewers will be familiar with Corrigan from his recent tough guy roles in comedy films like Superbad and Pineapple Express, but this is a great change for him. He carries the slightly off, yet sympathetic character very well, allowing the audience to sense his darker side without being put off by it. He is a guy who is struggling, but he is never the over-played, unbalanced, twitchy psycho. You are very much on his side throughout the entire story.  Karen Black is fantastic as his mother, so tired and frustrated by his problems and the turns his life has taken that every word out of her mouth is dripping in sarcasm and disdain. The best surprise though, was Barry Bostwick as the town Sheriff. Holy shit was he funny! Great lines and a really fantastic delivery. Pretty much everything out of his mouth had me laughing. And Ariel Gade is great as Boyd’s daughter, Amy. She packs the perfect amount of attitude and spunk to make her character fun and engaging, but never falls into the trap of precocious kid. This character is never over-the-top and annoying, and by all rights, she probably should be.

Some Guy Who Kills People needs to be on your DVD list. It’s funny, touching – a great addition to horror-comedy (and because the horror elements are underplayed, you have the added benefit of being able to enjoy it with your non-horror friends and loved ones who wish that for God’s sake you could for once bring home a movie that isn’t covered in eyeballs and intestines – yeah, I know how it goes).

Behind the Mask Sequel Needs Your Help

If, like me, you were a huge fan of Scott Glosserman’s 2006 indie horror gem, Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, then you need to jump on this Kickstarter campaign.

Glosserman is hoping to continue the legend with Before the Mask: The Return of Leslie Vernon, and is looking for help from the horror community to get it funded. Donate some cash and walk away with a pre-order of the dvd that you know you’re just going to buy later anyway. We need more horror like this. Help make this happen!