Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Recent Viewings: 7/23/13.

I'm resisting the urge to make a bad joke about showing her my "boomstick".

Evil Dead (2013)
Starring: Jane Levy; Shiloh Fernandez; Lou Taylor Pucci; Jessica Lucas; Elizabeth Blackmore.
Directed by: Fede Alvarez.
Colour/91 Minutes/R

There has been a massive backlash against this film. I guess every remake gets that, but it feels like it has risen to a fever pitch with Evil Dead. After watching it, I have a feeling I watched a totally different film than all of its detractors did. People seem to forget that Evil Dead 2 was really a remake of The Evil Dead, and you never see them bitch and moan about the major rehashing in that film. But now it's trendy to shit on anything paraded around as a remake/re-imaging/reboot. Like the highly entertaining original, this film is pretty much balls-to-the-wall, as it jumps right into the demonic stuff. Visually the film tries to out-do films like Braindead/Dead Alive with the blood and gore. Really, really impressive in that department, I must say, using mostly practical effects; keeping the CGI to a bare minimum. Sure, Fede Alvarez doesn't go the Sam Raimi route here and throw every camera trick he can think of up there, but why bother in the first place? This is essentially a merging of The Evil Dead and Evil Dead 2, and it actually stays pretty true to the first two entries in the original series, minus the humor (which really only showed up in the sequel and Army of Darkness) and an "Ash" kicking ass and spouting one-liners. To be fair, this remake doesn't really improve on the original and it's "sequel", however, and the tweaks to the plot and characters here seemed interesting but not fully realized. Some bitch that there's really no back story or character development, and I wonder if they've ever seen the first two Evil Dead films. They were pretty barren of these elements as well. I could have done without the opening bit that pretty much tells you everything you're in store for, but subtly pretty much isn't this film's thing at all. But despite how shallow this is on characters and back story, this is one of those remakes worth renting. The trendy fan boys can eat my boomstick. Renty, renty.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Starring: Jessica Chastain; Jason Clarke; Joel Edgerton; Jennifer Ehle; Mark Strong; Kyle Chandler; Édgar Ramírez; James Gandolfini. 
Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow.
Colour/157 Minutes/R

Apparently based on first-hand accounts of the tracking down and killing of Osama bin Laden, but even if everything in the film is total bullshit, I couldn't care less. This is pretty much an epic police procedural film that boils slow for most of its 157 minute running time, but it never got boring for me. Bigelow seems to understand that a little bit of strong character work and story helps elevate this from what could have been a very dry docudrama. The suspense involved as Jessica Chastain's CIA agent "Maya" and her team tries tracking down every lead, no matter how dubious, is pretty gripping stuff. It feels very real and that's all that is ultimately important. I mean, I was not going into this thinking I was going to get an inside scoop or a history lesson. But, like I said, it feels VERY real. Real people, real situations. The final act, depicting S.E.A.L. Team 6's assault on Osama's hideout is intense stuff, and it is perhaps the most realistic-looking depiction of a special forces team doing their thing. Again, it just sells itself so well, even if there are flaws here and there, and a big part of that is how the cast and especially Jessica Chastain's performance anchors the entire film. Maya is a young woman, driven and not willing to give up, even if it means stepping on the toes of her superiors or risking her own life. By the end of the film her 12 years spent on the trail of bin Laden -- essentially her entire young adulthood -- takes a toll on her. Where does she go now and what has she lost in those years? On a side note, it also helps that's she's a beautiful woman and a redhead...so I'm a bit biased towards her perhaps. Does this film glorify torture? It's an issue that keeps popping up in discussion of this film. I'm not convinced. If anything, for me it shows how dehumanizing it really is for both the tortured and the torturer. Ultimately it proves to be the least helpful part of what eventually leads them to bin Laden, and I think it leaves Maya a bit worse off by the end of the film for having been a part of it. Again, Bigelow is interested more in Maya's story here. She's exhausted, she's a bit broken, and isn't America the same way at this point, after two wars? The killing of bin Laden was a victory that came far too late. Anyway, this is a great film in my opinion. Well worth renting.

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