Snowpiercer (2013)

Snowpiercer (2013)

I’ve written about certain movies on this blog that I think I’m going to call Arthouse Lite (I’m waiting for the copyright to come through so I can name a shitty adjunct beer – marketed as craft – after it). Arthouse Lite movies are the movies you show your friends to get them to realize there are more movies out there than the big hundred million dollar superhero blockbusters. Movies that are original and fresh and that can provide some extra entertainment value in that you are rewarded for thinking about them a little more in depth than usual. They’re usually very stylistic and a little on the weird side but not so over the top that they would alienate somebody who would have no reference to it. Alejandro Jodorowsky’s The Holy Mountain is not Arthouse Lite. Harmony Korine’s Trash Humpers (yes, that is a real movie) is not Arthouse Lite. Movies like Enemy, Donnie Darko, or Under the Skin are Arthouse Lite. They’re just offbeat enough to grab the attention and imagination of the average person, but won’t make them walk out of the theatre in disgust or boredom.

Snowpiercer is an Arthouse Lite Lite sci-fi action film and is the latest project directed by South Korea’s Bong Joon Ho, the same guy who gave us the critically acclaimed and still-on-my-To-Watch List movies Mother (2009) and Memories of Murder (2003). The movie is based on a dystopian sci-fi graffic novel from 1982 by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette called Le Transperceneige. Snowpiercer received a very small limited release before word of mouth gave it the momentum to warrant a much larger one. I’ve been excited about this movie since I heard about it a year or so ago. It has a rock solid cast, and I’ve got a soft spot for movies about rebellions and uprisings as well as movies that take place in one location. In case you didn’t know, the assembly of acting talent here includes Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, John Hurt(!), and real life pretty boy Chris Evans. The basic plot of Snowpiercer is simple: In a post-apocalyptic frozen world, a train running on on a perpetual engine houses the last remaining dregs of humanity. The passengers on the train have been segregated Hunger Games style and the oppressed lower class folk in the rear of the train launch an assault lead by Curtis and Gilliam (Evans and Hurt respectively) to try and take over the front where the upper crust live. It’s your standard feel good story about the 99% toppling the 1%.

Except it isn’t. (more…)

Darkman (1990)

Darkman (1990)

It’s been a while since my last post. Between finding a new job and Pokémon GO, I haven’t had much time for anything.

Sam Raimi is one of my favorite directors, ever. Some people dismiss him as just a B-movie schlock director and lots of people hate him solely because of how Spider-Man 3 turned out, but he holds a special place in my heart. Sam Raimi comes across as a guy who just loves making movies. He’s like a demented Spielberg, focused on making movies fun and entertaining rather than just churning out cash grabs for an easy paycheque. More than a decade before 2002’s Spider Man, Raimi took a crack at the superhero genre with his first Hollywood film, 1990’s action/ comedy/ drama flick: Darkman.

Peyton Westlake (Liam Neeson) is a scientist researching synthetic skin cells to be used for skin transplants or reconstructive surgery. His cells are perfect replicas of regular skin cells except for one major flaw. If exposed to light, they only last 99 minutes before dissolving. His girlfriend, Julie Hastings (Frances McDormand) is an attorney that comes across a document that incriminates some of the city’s untouchable gangsters. Once word gets around that Hastings is keeping the letter hidden, mob leader Durant (Larry Drake) and his goons go looking for it and find it in Westlakes’ lab. After finding it, Durant disfigures Westlake before blowing up him and his lab. Left for dead and transformed into a hideous monster or a person, the scientist formerly known as Westlake goes on a roaring rampage of revenge, using his scientific knowledge to help him destroy everyone who was a part of ruining his life all while trying to reunite with the love of his life.

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Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)

The last few movies I’ve written about have had release dates somewhere in the past 3 years (I’m seriously surprised how many movies I’ve written about on this blog so far that were released in 2013), so I figured I would turn back the proverbial clock and review a movie from a decade we haven’t touched here on Coffee And Illithids: the ’70s. The ’70s were a time of big mustaches, ugly suits, and exploitation flicks. Yes, in the ’70s, the grindhouse was king. Gritty movies with violence, sexual assault, and other despicable acts portrayed on screen. Anti-heroes or even villains were the protagonists of these movies. They would leave you with a grimy, sleazy feeling when they were over, like you had to take a shower to wash the filth from your soul. I don’t think anyone could say they walked out of movies like The Last House on the Left or I Spit on Your Grave with a smile on their face. However, leave it to a director like John Carpenter to bring a smarter, more accessible style of grindhouse flick to the silver screen.

John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 is ’70s action thrill ride reminiscent of movies like The Warriors, Night of the Living Dead, and The Hills Have Eyes. The premise, like most Carpenter movies is simple: A couple colorful characters are stuck in a hairy situation together and they need to overcome their differences to work together and fight the bad guys. We had Jack Burton and Wang Chi teaming up against Lo Pan in Big Trouble in Little China, MacCready, Childs and the rest of the gang versus the alien nightmare in The Thing, and the epic smackdown Frank and Nada gave the aliens in They Live.

Assault on Precinct 13 sees police Lt. Bishop (Austin Stoker) joining forces with death row inmate and convicted murderer Napoleon Wilson (Darwin Joston) while defending an L.A. police precint against a blood crazed gang laying siege to it after one of their leaders is killed. Bishop and Wilson need to hold down the building with its couple remaining staff members overnight until reinforcements arrive. It’s like the opposite of The Raid, but I mean that in the nicest way possible.

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Witching & Bitching (2013)

Witching & Bitching (2013)

Horror comedy is a tough genre of movie to pull off correctly. You can’t sway two heavily to either horror or comedy sides, and you need to make sure that whatever horror tropes you’re lampooning doesn’t come across as patronizing to horror fans. You also need to make sure that you aren’t spoofing the subject-du-jour, and if you are, make sure you do it well lest you get your movie lumped in with money grubbing satirists or become a parody of yourself. Most meta-slasher or slasher parody films nowadays are just rehashes of Wes Craven’s 1996 masterpiece, Scream. A couple movies put fun little spins on the formula, but for the most part, they’re becoming as repetitive as slasher flicks did back in the ’80s and ’90s.

Las Brujas de Zugarramurdi or, it’s catchier English title, Witching & Bitching, is a comedy(?) horror(?) action adventure film from Spanish director Álex de la Iglesia. This movie seems to spoof old occult and witch movies from the ’70s, but it definitely takes some pages from Robert Rodriguez and Sam Raimi’s books as well. The movie is about a couple of guys, José (Hugo Silva) and Tony (Mario Casas) who stick up a gold buying store with José’s elementary school aged kid, Sergio (Gabriel Delgado). In their getaway they team up with Manuel, a down on his luck taxi driver who decides he’d much prefer to be a gold thief than a cabbie. Police and José’s wife are in pursuit, but before they can catch them, José and his crew run into a coven of witches. Things get out of hand incredibly quickly, and hilarity(?) ensues. (more…)

The Guest (2014)

The Guest (2014)

The 1980s were a great time. Not that I would really know since I wasn’t alive back then, but if the movie output of that decade was anything to go by, it was an amazing era. In fact, everybody loves the ’80s so much, we’re trying to make the 2010’s (’10s? That doesn’t sound right.) the new ’80s. It seems that everything nowadays is a remake or renewal of an ’80s IP, or a throwback to the style and aesthetics of that decade. And while not everything can be as amazing and brilliant as last year’s totally-not-made-just-because-the-80s-are-back-in-style-and-we-love-money Jem and the Holograms movie, we are getting some pretty good media that not only captures the essence of the ’80s, but builds on it and infuses some modern flare.

The Guest is a thriller directed by Adam Wingard, the same guy who directed 2011’s amazing semi-deconstructionalist-home-invasion-meets-slasher-but-seriously-not-as-pretentious-as-that-sounds flick You’re Next. The Guest would fall into the same vein as movies like You’re Next and Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, a distinctly modern movie that pays tribute to the stylings of  1980s action, thriller, and horror flims.

The Guest follows the Petersons, an average American family who’s eldest son Caleb was a soldier who was killed while serving overseas. They are visited by a young man named David (Dan Stevens) who claims to be an army buddy of Caleb’s and who has been tasked by the deceased son to visit and help out the Peterson family. Once David arrives though, some unusual things (namely corpses) start cropping up in the Petersons’ lives and it becomes obvious that David isn’t everything he says he is. (more…)

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