Thursday, September 8, 2011

Movie Roundup: Conan, The Debt, Shark Night, Red State, Attack the Block

Lots to talk about folks, we have much to discuss.

We ran a three day garage sale over the weekend and I feel like I didn't have any days off.  I have a silver tongue when it comes to makin' deals, and I put a lot of my stuff in the happy hands of new owners.  Call it me being green, but I also like that green as well!...

I did slip out to a flick here or there, as well, and caught Red State On-Demand.

Okay, here's the deal.  I have sat down the last three nights, and this is as far as I have gotten.  This is Reel Rhino: The Abbreviated Version.

PS: I have added the trailer for Bucky Larson, and I like most of what Nick Swardson has done until today, but dammit if this thing doesn't look awful!?!

THE DEBT: 4 of 5 Horns
A well told story, well acted, with high production values.  This isn't a monumental film, but in a span of mediocre releases, it stands out considerable.

SHARK NIGHT 3-D: 1 of 5 Horns
This could of been something decent, even though it was a blatant Piranha 3-D knock off.  If...and this is a big if....if this movie would have admitted what it was, a blatant Piranha 3-D knock-off, its self-awareness could have been used to its advantage.  Who cares what it's copying, when you get "camp" done right.  There was nothing right about this movie,starting with the fact it was a near bloodless, boobless, PG-13.  There is a shark night rap after the credits that is mildly amusing.  If the rap would have followed a semi-decent film, it would have been even better.  This thing was a steamer.

ATTACK THE BLOCK: 4.5 of 5 Horns
I had the good luck to see this in May when it played 25 cities on the 25th.  I am actually surprised that I didn't review it then, but it was an honorable mention for the first half of the year.  I loved this flick!

It was Ghostbusters meets The Goonies meets Gremlins meets all your favorite alien invasion flicks! 

Joe Wright has created a unique film that fits snugly in the canon of Edgar Wright-like flicks (Wright is a producer on this), while existing on its own merit with a cast that resembles a cadre of hard core British Goonies. I saw it as a a /Filmcast sponsored preview in cities across the US, and it is now out in limited release across the US.

RED STATE: 5 of 5 Horns
What follows is much of my March 2011 review of Red State, which I saw on its road show earlier this year.  September 2nd was the big day for the on-demand/iTunes/Amazon etc digital release of Red State, just after the LA theatrical run, to ensure that it will qualify via rules for Academy Award nomination.

Let me say this...The Reel Rhiness liked this film.  My wife who dislikes many films that I do like, liked this movie.  That is saying quite a bit....

To my earlier review....
RED STATE is a landmark film for a number of reasons, but perhaps mostly due to the finance and distribution route that Smith choose for this effort. I was able to see this movie because Smith "bought" the rights from himself at a single-bidder auction following its premiere at Utah's SUNDANCE FILM FESTIVAL. (Sadly, KIMBALIANO was not able to attend that screening.) Smith decided he was "taking it back" (see also: Clerks 2) and would hit the road with Red State, like in the good old days, or something of what is done with the Afterdark Horrorfest these days. What does Reel Rhino say? Genius, pure genius.

In addition to self-release a la the road show, the film will get an October wide-release. The number of screens it hits in October will be affected, it appears, in part by the success of the road shows and also the amount raised in merchandising at the shows, at the Smodcast site, and Smith's View Askew site.

As it stands right now, the advertising for this film has been web-based, twitter-centric, and word of mouth only. Smith did interviews on the radio stations, so at least he is effecting local word of mouth by hitting the airwaves as well as the net. I am curious to see the Prints and Advertising budget (if any) the wide-release brings in October.

(As it stands, the film is receiving not through Smodcast Pictures, as once speculated, but in fact by Lionsgate.)

This film is also a landmark in timing. Most of the casting announcements came out over Summer 2010, with a few roles filled as late as September 2010. This film was screened at Sundance in January. I am going to imagine a number of sleepless nights in the Smith household, and several more where Smith woke up drooling on the Avid console, mumbling some kind of an apology to Pete (see also: DOGMA).

When you write, direct, and edit your own film, you can roll it out as quickly or slowly as you like.

Essentially two months after shooting wrapped on this film, he had a first cut that was audience ready. Since that first screening, Smith has revisited the cutting room and I would imagine that what we see in theaters in October is the sum total of all of the experiences of the road show, rolled into a masterful cut. Really, its kind of brilliant. Normal, focus group showings are comped tix for the audience as long as you fill out this questionnaire. Smith got them (and me) to pay between $50 and $80 beans for a ticket to the event. And, he has all the questionnaire feedback he wants on Twitter, Facebook, and the Smod boards! I say again...he is an effing GENIUS! Kevin, my only request as I hope we see this more often, is that the ticket prices come down...between $20 and $50 would be much more reasonable for an event. $50 - $80 was too much. I was 5th row, dead center and I'd of paid more for such great seats to an event like this. But in times like these, I hate that folks had to pass because they just didn't have the dough.

RED STATE follows the hijinx of THE FAMILY, a religious sect that has many shared beliefs exhibited by the WBC, but taken to extreme with murder and mayhem also on the menu. What I saw as the major parallel between the WBC and the sect featured in Red State, is that both groups seem to have a strong distaste (or HATE) for anything and everyone who isn't them.

Pastor Abin Cooper is the leader of this band of religious fanatics, and his daughter Sarah (recent Academy Award winner Melissa Leo) is a church elder. Sarah's husband Caleb is played by Director Smith's HOLLYWOOD BABBLE-ON sidekick, Ralph Garman. Garman is a comedian, radio personality, and now movie-star and while his words are few, it was good to see him on screen. Jennifer Schwalbach Smith, wife to Kevin, is also a baddie in the flick, playing Ester one of the congragation's loyal subjects.

The two most memorable roles from this film were the portrayal of the town sheriff, by Stephen Root, and the ATF Field Office Commander, by John Goodman. What about Michael Parks' Cooper, you say? His role defied the term memorable to the level of being iconic. Abin Cooper as a character in this film, and Michael Parks' portrayal of him is nothing short of iconic. But for every memorable moment with Parks, there was an near equally powerful moment by John Goodman. I was absolutely floored by Goodman's performance and perhaps it struck me so starkly when compared to Parks because I was used to Parks being great and his fantastic delivery was no surprise to me. For Goodman, I think this is his finest role to date. And as for Stephen Root, it wasn't perfection or delivery that made Root's Sheriff Wynan so good, it was the character and his part in all of this that makes him so memorable.

A spoiler-free description in a nutshell for the movie is this: three city boys head off to the country, looking for a little bit o' sexual escapade. They get wrangled into some trouble with the aforementioned religious sect and ultimately law enforcement is drawn in to investigate. Calamity ensues.

This movie was fun to watch with tense moments interlaced with well-delivered one-liners and longer monologues written with grace and finesse that Smith's earlier works haven't offered him as many opportunities to write. This is an adult movie with adult language (I mean tone, not swearing you infant!) - Smith shows us he can write for the big kids as well as some of the best dick, fart, and weed jokes ever written.

There were some great steady-cam, Bourne-Identity like running around action shots. For every bit of action, there was a bit of humor, some intentional, some were just of the uncomfortable as hell moments, so-I-will-laugh variety. My only complaint goes towards some of the shots of the sect members involved in a bit of gun play at a couple of spots point in the film. For a few scenes, the shots are limited to close-ups of their upper torsos, firing their weapons. I thought these static shots took away, oh so slightly, from the other action sequences that were shot so well. Perhaps his goal hear was to show the fortitude of their position as matching that of their will? Whatever the goal, I thought these few scenes could have been shot more dynamically, but I must say that on a $5 million budget, I offer some forgiveness because over all, Smith took $5 million and made it look like $25 million, easily.

The Reel Rhino is clearly a big fan of Kevin Smith. I give RED STATE a very strong 5 of 5 horns and offer to the Director a congratulations. Not only have you done something different than you have in the past, but you did it right See this movie!

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