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Cartuna Day 8: JENNIFER'S BODY, THE LOVED ONES, MICMACS, SOLOMON KANE, HIGH LIFE

CARTUNA REPORTING - TIFF DAY EIGHT Okay, kids... Day Eight of TIFF has concluded. Pretty good day. Every film had something worthwhile about it, and though one was a bit disappointing, another was unexpectedly awesome. Here they are: HIGH LIFE directed by - Gary Yates The short version: Pretty good. Solid little boneheads-screw-up-a-heist film. I liked it, but wouldn’t go out of my way to see it again. The long version: In 1983, a crew of morphine-addicted ex-cons decide to rip off some bank machines (a relatively new technology at the time). As one might expect, things don’t go quite as planned. This was a pretty good movie, if not exactly likely to blow anyone away. There were some nice twists and turns to a relatively familiar tale. Timothy Olyphant is quite good as the ‘brains’ of the operation, though maybe slightly miscast - part of the story involves the crew enlisting a handsome stud in order to charm a lady bank teller, and Olyphant, though in morphine-addict mode, has been known to clean up pretty good. The rest of the actors are perfectly cast for their roles. So perfect, I wondered if I’d seen any of them play those sorts of characters before: the weaselly guy is an awesome weasel, the unpredictable crazy hardass is an awesome unpredictable crazy hardass. There were some really nice little touches, like showing the passage of time with a carton of ice cream which is intact in one scene, and melted all over the place in the next. If I had any major qualm with the story, it is that there comes a point in the film where I’d expect that any crew of professional and experienced robbers would just walk away, rather than continue on and take an unplanned risk - especially because their original plan is one that they could still potentially put into play at some later date. There was no real sense of desperation or extreme need that would seem to drive them to take such a chance, unless maybe they just had their hearts set on going back to jail. All and all, not bad. It’s a nice entry in the genre, but not one that I’m sure I will remember for very long. MICMACS directed by - Jean-Pierre Jeunet The short version: Fun. Funny. Gorgeous. I’d recommend it. The long version: Jeunet is a modern master, whose new work I’m always excited to see, and this one was in no way a disappointment. Bazil, a man whose father was killed by a land mine, survives getting shot in the head, but loses everything in the aftermath of the shooting. He ends up homeless, busking on the street for pocket-change, until he is adopted by a tribe of misfits living off-the-grid in a ‘temple’ beneath a scrapyard. This new family helps the man to plan and carry out revenge on the arms manufacturers responsible for the mine that killed his father, and the bullet he still carries in his frontal lobe. In case it’s unclear, this is a comedy. The subject matter is pretty dark, but the characters and their methods are so goony and engaging, that the darkness is mostly overpowered by a sense of playfulness and fun. This is a great entry in Jeunet’s filmography, with all of his hallmarks in place (though with a lot less emphasis on romance than in his more recent work). As you’d expect, it is beautiful to look at with an extreme level of unique detail. The story is odd, but well told, with a topical political underpinning - that of wanting to hold war profiteers accountable for their product. If I had an issue, it is maybe that things go off a little smoothly for our protagonists. There are bumps along the way, but I never really felt as though there was a lot of risk that they wouldn’t succeed with their plans. This didn’t keep me from enjoying the movie or anything - more of an afterthought than anything. I really dug it, and I’d definitely recommend it. SOLOMON KANE directed by - Michael J. Bassett The short version: Competent, but really standard and familiar take on a character who could’ve been more unique and singular. It’s all right, but fans of the original stories are much less likely to enjoy it. The long version: As someone who has read some of the original Robert E. Howard stories on which this film is based, I was pretty disappointed with it. However, prior to seeing it, I was a bit worried that it may have become some sort of Van Helsing rip-off, and it is not that, at least. That’s a relief, though what it IS, isn’t really all that inspiring either. This film is a kind of an origin story for a character who really doesn’t need any explanation. As a result, we never really see Kane behaving in the way that he does in the original stories. Instead, we see events that may or may not lead up to him behaving that way in some future story, though I don’t really see how they would. I can’t claim to have read everything ever written about Kane, but I don’t remember ever coming across anything like an origin story in the source material. Maybe I’m totally wrong here. Maybe this is a faithful recounting of how Kane came to be Kane. It doesn’t feel like it rings true in any way, but I’ll admit, I could be talking out my ass. But it seems to me that everything potentially good and unique has been watered down, converted into something much more standard and familiar. Gone is the Puritanical behaviour, the disgust with sorcery and paganism (with the exception of a single line of dialogue) and his need to forego the temptations of the flesh (though he never really indulges or even mentions them in this film, either). Gone is the devotion to wiping out evil wherever it may lay. Gone is the single-minded strength of purpose. Gone is the extreme devotion to his god. Instead, Kane is a man who has done many evil deeds, but who’s spent some time in a monastery, and as a result feels he should do no more violence, even when it means getting his own skull cracked open. Somehow, either not explained, or explained in some way that I missed, Kane has forfeited his soul to the devil, and he must save the life of a girl who’s been stolen for some unknown purpose, in order to get his soul back, though again, the reason why this will work is never really known. In fact, this film has MANY more echoes of Star Wars, of all things, then of Solomon Kane. An evil empire is taking over. A small rebellion is forming to fight them. The baddies are led by an evil and inscrutable masked general who can control them with the power of his mind, and even choke them at a distance, just by closing his fist in their direction. The real power behind the general is a sorcerer who commans him from an impregnable castle which the rebels must eventually assault. There are a few other things beyond that, but I don’t want to spoil anything for those who don’t figure it out immediately. And the unfortunate thing, of course, is what a missed opportunity it feels like. Kane is potentially so much more unique than this. He is much cooler, and more unusual. They had a chance to do something different and iconic, but they threw it over for the the tried, true, and familiar. What makes him awesome is that he’s a singleminded fanatic, and his fanaticism not only drives him, but in the world of the story, it is exactly what is needed to survive. Anyway, For all of its lack of fidelity to the character that some of us know and love, it is still a well-made film, and the audience certainly applauded plenty at the end. So take this with a grain of salt as the disappointment of someone who wanted something different, rather than a complete dismissal of the thing itself, which can probably be enjoyed for its own merits, at the very least by those not familiar with the source material. Not a great film, regardless, but one that some might enjoy. Just not me. THE LOVED ONES directed by - Sean Byrne The short version: This one kicked my ass. A squirmy, shocking horror. If you like that sort of thing seek this one out. Really good. The long version: Oh, HELL yes! I had absolutely zero expectations going into this one, and I was completely blown away. What an awesome surprise. A great horror movie that I haven’t seen a hundred times before. Tense, shocking, ballsy, horrifying. When Lola asks Brent to the high school dance, he kindly turns her down. He has a girlfriend, and is going with her. But, uh... Lola isn’t willing to take no for an answer. What follows is unbelievably batshit-insane. If you ever read horror short story anthologies, you know that there are PLENTY of utterly untapped ideas left in horror - and as much as we all love vampires, zombies and slashers, we have always been a bit shortchanged by what makes it to the screen. This movie feels like one of those nasty little horror short stories that kicks your ass on the page, but which no one ever feels the need to adapt into anything. The audience was squirming like crazy during this movie, completely involved, gasping at depravities, and applauding victories. Everyone was cringing, covering their eyes and peeking between their fingers, not wanting to miss anything. What more can you ask from a horror? And there’s a great level of depth to the characters, many of whom are coping with prior losses. There is a definite sense that life is in motion when evil descends on them. They aren’t just bowling pins set up to take a blow, but people. And as so many contemporary hollywood horror movies get wrong, how can you feel a sense of dread and concern for the well-being of the characters, if you don’t give a shit about them in the first place? A bit less compelling was a side plotline, featuring Brent’s comic-relief friend and the hot but very damaged goth chick who agrees to go to the dance with him. There are some ways in which they fold into the greater story, and really enhance our understanding of what has gone on, but for the most part they’re a superfluous digression from the task at hand. I can understand wanting to give the audience some relief from the horror of the main plot, and do appreciate getting a chance to breathe while we cut away to their exploits. I hope you all get the chance to see this movie somehow, preferably in a theatre full of like-minded horror movie fans. It was awesome, and I highly recommend it. JENNIFER’S BODY directed by - Karyn Kusama The short version: Liked it a lot. Strong horror entry that I’m sure will be on many folks halloween dvd shelf as soon as they can get it there. The long version: Nobody really understands why Jennifer and Needy are best friends - they’re just so different. But they become even more different when Jennifer is the victim of a botched human sacrifice and returns, distinctly demonic, with an insatiable need for human flesh. This movie was almost exactly what I expected. A great concept, well delivered. Very funny, and fairly hardcore, with that distinctive voice that some of you love and some of you hate. If you hate it, don’t bother. If you love it, be prepared for the gore that accompanies it this time, because while this movie doesn’t quite go to the extremes that Loved Ones did, it certainly doesn’t shy away from getting dirt under its nails, either. Both Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried do great jobs in their roles (though Seyfried as the ugly duckling? Well, suspension of disbelief and all, but come on, now). And the thing I like best, is how real their friendship feels. I think we’ve all had friends who we really love, but whose lifestyle we maybe don’t fully agree with. There’s not much point in arguing about it with them - that would only serve to push them away - so we just accept it as part of who they are, and try to be there to catch them afterwards. I really felt this sort of bond between these two girls, and it felt very honest and true to me. A nice surprise in a genre where relationships can so often feel like they are just there to serve the story. A bit of a false note in the movie came from the usually outstanding J.K.Simmons, who plays more of a caricature than most anyone else in the movie. It’s a bit odd that they felt the need to insert comic relief into what is already a pretty funny movie, and it pushed me out of the story a bit each time he was onscreen. Overall, though, this one does exactly what it promises, and if that’s what you want, you won’t be disappointed. So, there we are. Moving on, today we will be cracking the final eleven films. It’s my biggest day with SIX, count ‘em, SIX movies waiting to be seen. Unbelievable that this year’s fest is actually drawing to a close. I’ll give my thoughts on these six tomorrow.

Readers Talkback
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  • Sept. 18, 2009, 8:23 a.m. CST

    cool story bro

    by turketron_2

    srsly

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 8:27 a.m. CST

    Timothy Olyphant miscast?

    by DerLanghaarige

    Sounds like every role he played before.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 8:27 a.m. CST

    Redeye does not exist in this dojo

    by Cobra--Kai

    You watched five films in one day? And tommorrow you're watching six?<p> Your eyes must be bleeding and you ass must be pleading for you to stop sitting on it!

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 8:30 a.m. CST

    by Cobra--Kai

    Yeah man, if I have to read 'Timothy Olyphant miscast' again i'm gonna hurt somebody.<p> Either he has the world's worst agent or, we have to consider the possibility, that he's actually just shit.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 8:31 a.m. CST

    I am fed up with teen horror movies

    by ominus

    I watched yesterday The Sentinel and Dead and Buried.Why the fuck cant do horror movies like that? is it easier to scare your teen audience,than an adult one? anyway i ll watch jenifer and the loved ones,but please variety hasnt hurt anyone.how about a fucking Mountains of Madness?

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 8:45 a.m. CST

    Sucks about The Loved Ones

    by Garbageman33

    We were supposed to go on Sunday night, but were exhausted and had an early morning screening of A Serious Man the next day. Now I'm hearing really good things about it. Oh well, at least A Serious Man kicked ass.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 11:33 a.m. CST

    short versions rule!!!

    by Snikkar124

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 12:56 p.m. CST

    Solomon Kane

    by Charles Martel

    While I agree with some of the reviewer's points, I do have some small disagreements. He's right - this isn't a Howard story. But it does explain why Kane's soul is in peril, and the whole point of the film is Kane's realization that he is to fight evil wherever it may be. And though not exactly the same character, there are some VERY Howard parts of the story. I liked a good deal, and found it very entertaining. Very much worth seeing in theater, in my humble opinion.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 5:18 p.m. CST

    As for SOLOMON KANE...

    by MaxTheSilent

    It seems to me that Bassett is intending on beiong much more directly faithful to the source with the sequel, if it gets made. It will be set in Africa, so we'll get N'Longa and the cat-head staff and all that goodness. Reading the script for this movie it did seem quite traditional, but slightly more seriously-intended than utter dreck like VAN HELSING. And while yeah, this movie may piss off those Howard purists who only want rote adaptations of the master's work I hope it will be successful enough to give Bassett the freedom to do at least one sequel that will be more in-tune with the psychotic religious zealot Howard wrote.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 6:52 p.m. CST

    Never Read the Books

    by Mr_Satan

    <p>Because the person adapting it doesn't give a shit about the source material.<p> <p>They say "Hey this is a great story! Lets change it and add some hip-hop references to make it cool with Da kids. SUPER HIT!" I hate hollywood.<p> I haven't read the Kane books but I feel for those that have. Hollywood never does the right thing to source material. The reason why everyone likes the characters must be removed for marketing because they don't trust the general populace to know whats good. A whole lot of MEH! That's why I like Transporter. No brain needed.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 8:24 p.m. CST

    RE: Mr_Satan

    by MaxTheSilent

    Thank you for your empathy. But it should be said that the vast majority of R.E. Howard's work are short stories. Howard wrote for the pulp mags who wanted quick, intense pieces for their publications. So I think that anybody who is interested in genre material at all should delve into the world of those pulp writers like Robert E. Howard. He wrote amazing short stores you could probably read in well under an hour. In fact, one of my favourite things to do during my lunch break at work is to read a Howard yarn or two.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 10:15 p.m. CST

    Jennifer's Body

    by taylor2

    Not a single ounce of that movie is scary or suspenseful. Why do people inside on calling any film with gore in it 'Horror'. JB is a comedy with "horror-elements". <BR><BR> I think we should start calling any Drama with a joke in it a Comedy.

  • Sept. 18, 2009, 10:16 p.m. CST

    "inside"?

    by taylor2

    Whoops.. is that considered a Freudian Slip?

  • Sept. 20, 2009, 12:30 p.m. CST

    Cartuna you thought Jennifer's Body had gore?

    by D.Vader

    This was the tamest "horror" film I've seen in years.

  • Sept. 21, 2009, 12:54 p.m. CST

    Amanda Seyfried is naked in her next movie!!!

    by dingleberryjerry

    Apparently she gets nekkid in her next film "Chloe", directed by Atom Egoyan. Should be out before Christmas.