I think I’ve found Oliver Stones most overrated movie. Not to say it’s bad. This is a really good movie. But it feels like it got a lot of love because of Michael Douglas and that it was the first movie to the watering hole of this subject matter. It’s a movie that shows us the fucked up way that Wall Street works and how it’s all about greedy dickheads fucking over the little guy to make a quick buck they really don’t care about. The movie can be summed up in the line “Well I guess I’ll only make $10 Million today”. Douglas is great as the epitome of the system, a slick and devious piece of crap only out to make some money and boost his ego. Sheen is the one that isn’t as successful in his performance here. He never really digs into the desperation he feels towards the end and kind of in the beginning. The slick, shitty side comes off real well since it’s Charlie Sheen. But he’s a little stiff and out of his depth. The story is solid and makes it’s points well without hammering you over the head and it ends in a really good place. It’s just I wish for a little more in the villainy department or the devious nature of the beast. That’s just me wishing for a little more seasoning though. It’s a good damn movie and one worth seeing.
The Hills Have Eyes (September 9th, 2015)
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Martin Speer, Robert Houston, Susan Lanier, and Dee Wallace
Most horror directors would love to have a movie like this be only a top 5 movie and not their number one. Just think on that. This isn’t his best or even most influential horror movie. Mind boggling. Now, I’ve seen this already and loved it before. I just wanted to rewatch it again after his passing to get the whole of his career back in my mind. And this movie packs a punch. It’s still in his low budget, grimy feeling era. This is only his second movie and he’s still learning on the job. But it is a step up from Last House on The Left. And like that movie, he uses that rough style to his advantage, making the movie feel like it’s something really happening. His feel with tone and pacing have gotten much better, as there is nothing even remotely similar to the bumbling cops subplot from that movie. It’s just a slow burn until the shit hits the fan and it’s a rollercoaster to the end. And when it hits the fan, it’s unflinching and brutal, going further than most other horror flicks of the day, furthering the maturity of the genre. And it isn’t just empty thrills either. The movie is smart, with Wes having something on the brain. He’s essentially remaking Straw Dogs but giving it a genre twist with killer redneck cannibals. What it means to be a man and the bullshit of civilized society under pressure makes this a potent movie in between the horror. This is a great damn movie and it was his second. So much for a sophomore slump.
The Hills Have Eyes Part 2 (September 10th, 2015)
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Janus Blythe, Tamara Stafford, Kevin Spirtas, and Michael Berryman
Whereas Wes managed to knock it completely out of the park with The Hills Have Eyes, he fumbles it completely with the sequel. It’s an almost purposefully bad movie, a movie with nothing to separate it from the rest of the pack of 80s slasher movies. The characters are aggressively stupid, knowing that they’re being hunted by at least one cannibal killer yet still do the stupid slasher movie shit of wandering off alone to fuck or just checking out a noise. Or in my favorite example, a girl running away from her wandering boyfriend into the dark desert as he chases her down with their broken down bus because reasons. Not to mention that the girl from the cannibal family in the first one has left with the surviving son from the first one and lives a normal life is with these goons and doesn’t immediately bitchslap every single one of them with the righteous fury of a thousand suns every time they act like fucking idiots. It’s bonkers how completely the movie just falls apart in a lack of originality. There’s no spark. But when it started, I was kinda intrigued. It starts with the son Bobby in therapy, obviously still fucked up about the events of the first one. Alright, maybe Wes is gonna do something interesting about PTSD or survivors guilt. Nope. None of that. Immediately devolves into half assed nonsense set to throw a bunch of bland dumbfucks into the frying pan. I will say there is one good character in the bunch and it is the blind Cass (Stafford), a girl who is very capable despite her blindness. She’s upbeat and smart and just all around great, and uses her heightened senses to fight back in the end. The only sign of life in the movie, I wish she was given more to do or just been in a better movie. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be. Even knowing the issues Wes had with the production losing money 2/3 of the way through, the movie still just doesn’t work even in the stuff filmed. He may have had to pad it out with flashbacks to the first (one hilariously done with the dog having a flashback), but the original material is quite garbage. And he had disowned it since, claiming he was broke and simply just needed the money it offered to make it. It doesn’t excuse the garbage of the proceedings, but it helps clarify how he could make such unmitigated garbage from a property he created. Now aside from Cass, there is some good in the movie but only from a technical standpoint. The cinematography isn’t award winning stuff by any stretch, but it is perfectly in line with the other cheap 80s horror flicks like the first three Friday The 13th movies that I was just thrown into the mood of the thing. That was also helped by having Harry Manfredini, composer of those movies, on this to perfectly fit into the feel of the time. So while this movie is just pretty broken on every narrative level, I still get some entertainment value out of it for the sheer 80’s of the thing and how silly it is. But be sure, this is a bad movie and only should be seen by Wes purists and those curious about really bad sequels.
The Serpent and The Rainbow (September 11th, 2015)
Director: Wes Craven
Starring: Bill Pullman, Cathy Tyson, Zakes Moake, and Paul Winfeld
After hitting a career low with Wes, we bounce back with an overlooked gem in the mans filmography, as it stands in contrast to the more over the top efforts of the 80s. After making the killer robot movie Deadly Friend (which I’ll probably watch next week), he decided to go into something more sinister and melancholic while still keeping within the more fantastical elements of the genre. This movie is him taking a crack at a zombie movie, but in typical Wes fashion it is not the movie we’d think that would imply. He goes back to the pre Romero idea of zombies and uses the Haitian voodoo idea of zombies. Pullman is the main guy here and he is hired by a pharmaceutical company to go to Haiti to try and find this rumored “zombie” drug to help in surgery. But as he gets there, obviously things aren’t as simple as they seem as mysticism and political strife rear their ugly heads to make this a hell of a trip for the man. The movie is fantastically shot, beautifully making the exotic locale look simultaneously beautiful but deadly. And with the Haitian form of zombies, there’s the opportunity for Wes to delve into dream imagery and fucking with the reality of the story, and he uses his past on Elm Street with the maturity as a filmmaker to really make that stuff work, nailing some really good haunting imagery. The only fault I can really lay at this movies feet is that the character stuff between Pullman and Tyson is a bit rushed, so an emotional connection to them isn’t as strong as we would like. But Pullman is strong enough in the role that it can be forgiven. This is a tense, atmospheric and beautiful little movie that tackles some questions about the human soul. And being Wes, the climax has some absolutely batshit moments that only he can pull off. Highly recommended.
Nixon (September 12th, 2015)
Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Joan Allen, James Woods, and Mary Steenburgen
This is bit of a safe movie in terms of Oliver Stones career up to that point. The man just came off of Natural Born Killers, a movie that was essentially a 2 hour controversy machine with the bonus of having a movie attached to it. So for him to come back with a 3 hour biopic was a bit surprising. Even if it was about Richard Nixon, it still felt a little safe. And while the movie does have a bit of safeness in it, it is a movie imbued with Stones masterful crafting to make a propulsive look into an immensely flawed man. What’s surprising about the movie is that Stone doesn’t use it as a 3 hour history lesson about what a cocksucker Nixon was. It’s not likeW., where it was just a by the books what a good guy biopic. But it does show the good side as well as the bad of the man, showing how his issues and trials led him to that fateful Watergate scandal. He portrays Nixon, with the help of Anthony Hopkins, as a man who was constantly beaten down by the world but kept fighting back even in the face of many loses. This Nixon is an immensely bitter man who thinks the world is out to get him and this paranoia is his down fall, and it isn’t necessarily out of line. The man sold his soul to reach the heights he did and got too consumed trying to prove everyone wrong that he eventually proved them all right. It’s a brilliant portrayal that does what I love best, making the protagonist a mix of good and bad, never truly condemning him nor praising him. Its just a warts and all look. Hopkins knocks it out of the park, despite looking or sounding nothing like the man. But he gets to the soul of the man and disappears into it, and that’s the most important part. My only main criticism is that this feels like the Casino to JFK’s Goodfellas, an almost too stylistically similar movie to that epic feat of cinema. The movie works on its own, but lacks some of that movies insanity and doesn’t quite earn the similar stylistic quirks. But aside from that, the movie is just great and not filled with as much mad up bullshit as that one, so it trades some impact for some fact so that’s fine. The supporting cast is great and James Woods is in it so there’s always that man to make things lively if you aren’t completely engrossed. The movie jumps through time brilliantly to make the best case for the almost tragic life Nixon led. This is yet another example to make me mad at how bland Stone has gotten in recent years and makes me hope upon hope he can wake the fuck up one day.
1. The Hills Have Eyes
3. Wall Street
4. The Serpent and The Rainbow
6. The Hills Have Eyes Part II