I will admit it; I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the details of this film.
I don’t know any of the characters names or what year or what the hell they were really fighting about. All I know is that it features two of my favorite character actors in ridiculous hairstyles fighting in some of the goriest battle scenes ever. Brian Cox is the good guy, leading a disgraced templar who looks a lot like a young Christopher Lambert, against Paul Giamatti and the wrath of his bowl-cut.
Seriously, when he first shows up as the diabolical King dressed like Peter Pan, I will admit it is a little hard to swallow.
The film doesn’t waste any time getting into the action, however. And it is fucking brutal.
Over the course of the film, we are treated to repeated battle scenes flooded with red fluids and grue. The King is trying to crush the rebellion, and siege after siege unfolds. The rebels defeat the kings’ troops time after time, until getting pushed back to the mighty Rochester castle, where a lengthy, blood-soaked battle takes place.
Be aware, when I say this thing is graphic, I mean it. The battles have that sped-up hyper-real Lord Of The Rings style, splashed with waves of blood. We get burning bodies, axes to foreheads, catapulted corpses, and even a brutal severed leg beat-down.
The obvious comparisons are with the Rings trilogy and more recently the Game Of Thrones HBO series, but, in my opinion, Ironclad shouldn’t even be mixed in with them. Those two are intensely character-driven stories punctuated by violence, with the emphasis on the whole of the story. Ironclad feels much like the opposite of all that, gleefully splattering us with gore in the name of some feeble story about rebels and kings and what-not.
I am a big fan of Paul Giamatti, but unfortunately I believe he was horribly miscast here. He does a respectable job as the deranged and sadistic king, and I am sure he had a lot of fun playing a different type of role, but it just doesn’t work here. There is a scene where he is all red-faced and screaming that is particularly hilarious. But then he cuts Brian Cox’s fucking hands off with an axe, and watches him bleed out, so there is that…
The characters we are supposed to give a shit about are all casually-constructed sketches of archetypes we find in all of these type of films. Of course, Giamatti is the evil king and Brian Cox is the leader of the rebels, but then we have a wide variety of stereotypical brutes, maidens, and peasants. The disgraced monk. The young boy getting his first taste of battle. The grizzled old man of the keep. The kept woman. They are all here, and most of them get their heads caved in for your enjoyment!
All in all, it is a fun gory movie, with not much substance, but more than enough bodily fluids. Well worth a watch, if you have nothing better to do for two hours.
Nina is a terribly uninteresting character, showing no emotions, frigid and unlikable.Christ, even the scene where she masturbates in her bed is practically passionless. But it turns out that this is the point. In order for the movie to work at all, we have to see Nina’s horizons expand. We have to believe she has transformed from boring Nina into the Black Swan, and this is how they succeed in the films hypnotic finale.
For example, at one point the ballet’s director asks one of the male dancers, “Would you fuck that girl?”
He just shrugs, like, “Of course not, I’m a ballet dancer. I’m gay.”
The correct answer for any straight man, of course is, “Right now? That’s Natalie fucking Portman, dude. I would absolutely fuck her.”
The point is supposed to be that her character lacks passion. And they get the point across well.
Mila Kunis shows up looking hot as always, and starts making Nina’s life a little more interesting. She always has that mischevious look about her, and you can tell she enjoys stirring shit up. The controversial scene where she makes a Meal of Natalie Portman’s Kunis instantly ranks pretty high on the boner scale.
The whole “twist” where a main character is actually the same person as the other main
character is getting old, Hollywood. It works here, just because it is left so ambiguous,
but please can we find another trick? This was done much better in Fight Club, and much
worse in High Tension.
All in all, this is a solid work of art, with a great performance by Natalie Portman. By the
end, she will have your jaw on the floor. Plenty of creepy stuff going on in hallucinations,
and barely glimpsed scary images. And who hasn’t always wanted to see Wynona Ryder
repeatedly stab herself in the face with a nail file?
Santa was very kind to the Headmistress and I this year. For one thing, he brought a 47″ HD TV which apparently didn’t fit in the sleigh last year. And he topped it off with a sweet Blu-ray player with streaming capabilities. What a guy!
So, we searched for the perfect disc for our first high-def experience. We considered all of our options, before settling on the 2005 classic, The Descent, which my lady had unbelievably never seen.
The Descent is the incredibly well-told story of a group of female friends who decide to go exploring a cave in the wilderness called Boreham Caverns. All the characters are well-developed and interesting, especially Sarah, who lost her husband and child in the jarringly violent opening scene. The claustrophobia and paranoia developed throughout the course of the movie is incredible, even literally breath-taking in parts. It is a genuinely tense, scary film, even before the albino cave-monsters show up and kill every one.
The film looks amazing on Blu-Ray! So much detail in the opening scenes in the forest and cabin, you can almost smell how green the landscape is. The cavern scenes are equally impressive, so cinematically tense and beautifully detailed, you feel like you are right there, fighting for your life alongside these desperate, horrified women.
This is definitely recommended for purchase, especially if you are lucky enough to have quality gadgets to view this masterpiece on. Even the standard def edition is still a great experience. In my opinion, The Descent is one of the best scary movies of the last ten years.
Also, this is the excellent unrated edition, with the vastly superior original ending released in British theaters. If you have only seen the Americanized version, do yourself a favor and check out this uncut edition for a much more satisfying conclusion.
(Not to mention, the REAL ending completely negates the entire concept of a sequel, which was surprisingly not horrible…)
For me, the announcement that Kevin Smith was directing a horror movie was great news. I have been a big fan and admirer of the director since seeing Clerks at Burns Court Cinema in 1994. While his movies have never been perfect, he has always made it clear that he was doing things his own way and making his own path. He has made his feelings about religion clear before with “Dogma”, and uses film-making as his own personal diary to express and work out his own views of the world, which is the core of all art, unless I am sadly mistaken. In fact, “Red State” was inspired in part by an odd premonition of Smith’s that he was going to die after his tenth film and wanted to leave an unpleasant, nasty film as his last.
The controversies surrounding the very release of this film are interesting in themselves. The Weinstein Company, who had been involved in the distribution of most Kevin Smith films, passed on supporting Red State with necessary funding. He found the $4 million somewhere, and shot the movie quickly, then decided on an unorthodox self-distribution scheme, which angered quite a few Hollywood types who felt they were somehow swindled. For months, Smith had maintained that the rights to the film would be auctioned off to a distributor at a controversial event to be held after its premiere at Sundance, but instead Smith purchased the film himself which, according to analysts, “might have been a difficult sale for any distributor.” On June 28, 2011, Smith announced a one-week run in Tarantino’s New Beverly Cinema (making the film and its actors eligible for Oscar consideration). The film was released via On Demand on September 1, 2011 through Lionsgate, was released in select theaters again for a special one-night only engagement on September 23, 2011 (via Smodcast Pictures), and was released on home video October 18, 2011.
Is it any good? Well…
The film starts in true old-school slow burn fashion, no title card, no credits. You are simply thrust into a situation, which is a great horror movie trick, that disorients you from the start. The initial characters are a few “average” teenage boys with a plan to meet up and gang-fuck some 38-year-old spinster they met through some dating app.
Of course, unless you have been a teenage boy, you probably can’t relate to this, and Smith probably alienated a lot of his audience here. In my case, I could relate. Not about the gang-sex, but just to the boys driving around aimlessly on a weekend night, drinking and smoking. It felt like something my friends and I would have done at that age, even though we sadly didn’t have the trusty internet back then in 1995.
Anyway, they arrive at a sad old trailer in the backwoods, inhabited by a sad older woman, who encourages the boys to drink up, because she “don’t let no man enter her unless he’s got two beers in him.”
Then, suddenly, the boys are unconscious and nearly-naked, in the cramped bedroom of a single-wide trailer, and some figures come into view as the point of view fades out. When we wake up, we are still looking through the eyes of one of the boys, Jared, as he is rolled along inside of a cage covered with a sheet. The in-your-face shaky cam during this scene really hieghtens the suspense you feel, in this instance.
Then we arrive at the best scene in the movie. A local religious zealot named Abin Cooper reveals himself to be the mastermind of this situation, as the sheet covering Jared’s cage is lifted to show the insides of a church-house, and Cooper giving a true fire and brimstone sermon.
Abin Cooper is played amazingly by Michael Parks, who everyone here should know as the Texas Ranger Earl McGraw from the opening scene of the modern classic “From Dusk Till Dawn”. He also reprised that role in both Grindhouse films, “Planet Terror” and “Death Proof”, not to mention his dual roles in “Kill Bill”. He has always been relegated to supporting roles, that I am aware of, but here he takes center-stage and is riveting as the deranged preacher who is convinced that his god is vengeful and angry, and homosexuality is the cause of all the evils in the world. As he rants on with incredible conviction, more elements of the surroundings are slowly revealed.
A figure is moving under a sheet below the cross behind the preacher.
A trap door below the cross holds the other two boys.
Jared’s plea’s for help fall on deaf, deluded ears.
The man under the sheet is revealed to be a “deviant” homosexual, bound to the cross with plastic-wrap and his mouth stuffed with a red gimp ball-gag. The women and children are asked to leave, so the others can get down to “man’s business.”
The struggling man is suffocated and executed, then pushed into the trap door, where the other two boys are struggling to escape.
They cut their cling-wrap cuffs off with a protruding bone from the corpse.
The movie gets fuzzy from here on out, cops are involved, action, running, screaming, and gunshots. It turns into a kind of stand-off film, blatantly echoing the fuck-up at Waco in 1994.
I was excited to learn that John Goodman was cast in this film, but, unfortunately he is quite unconvincing as this character, the head of the ATF squad called in to handle the “terrorists”. He looks old and grizzled, to be sure, but when he is barking death orders into a walkie-talkie, it is simply laughable.
The film twists and turns and shocks the rest of the way through, and if Smith was really going for “unpleasant” with this film, he was successful. The ending is incredibly cynical, but I found it to be a fitting punch-line to the overall film, maybe to Kevin Smith’s whole career.
After all, the last line, “Shut the fuck up!”, is delivered by Kevin “Silent Bob” Smith himself, and if I am correct, I suspect he might be talking to himself….
“How many horrible fucking remakes is Hollywood going to fucking make?”
And if you’re anything like me, you’ve probably even said something like that before. I hate Hollywood remakes, and I think filmmakers should abandon the practice.
In fact, there are MANY regurgitated stories that Hollywood has vomited up and onto the big screen that very few of us are able to stomach. It’s HIGHLY frustrating. Why fix something that was never broke? Why pervert a film classic for the new generation? Are there really no new ideas coming from the writers in Hollywoodland?
But, I would be remiss if I didn’t give credit where credit is due. There are SOME remakes which I believe were wrought with a considerable degree of skill and competence.
The Carpenter constructed Zombie
For the sake of brevity, I am going to argue that the first remake of Halloween is one such example.
Am I saying that the new version compares to its predecessor? No. I am simply saying that it is a decent film, which relates the original story adequately, and it happens to be a remake.
Many diehard horror fanatics (like me) will even assert that the original 1978 production of Halloween was a classic, while dismissing the 2007 version as a sophomoric attempt to retell the story in a more testosterone-driven and profitable way.
Sure, it was directed by Rob Zombie. Not John Carpenter. But it was with the go ahead from John Carpenter on the advisement that he make it “his film”.
However I must submit to the class that in the scope of recent Hollywood remakes, Zombie’s take on the story of Michael Myers is a cut above the rest when considering content, direction and editing.
Let me put it to you this way:
Would you rather the new generation of movie goers be subjected to subpar remakes like 2009’s The Stepfather, which had so many holes in continuity or logic that you could play Wack-A-Mole out of them? That movie fucking sucked, and now most youngsters who think of that story won’t know of the grim original from 1987, which starred Lost’s Terry O’Quinn.
Zombie’s version of the film obviously deviates from the original in many ways, but it could have gotten MUCH worse direction.
There is no mystery. The characters are by no means allergic to vulgarity. More emphasis is placed on Myers’ childhood and his obviously dysfunctional family. There is less of an element of ‘evil’ and more of an element of ‘psychological disorder’, and it’s just simply not what most of us grew up watching.
Let’s get one thing on the table.
All of the characters are, quite simply, unlikeable. They are made out to be monsters. Everyone from Myers’ principal, his sister, school mates and even Dr. Loomis. To help get that ball rolling, Zombie has pretty much all of them spitting out profanity while exhibiting some sort of immoral behavior.
Anybody can do that! Woopty fucking doo.. doo.
Doo doo. Haha, anyways.
I can’t stress enough that Zombie makes the audience question ‘how the world can create such monsters?’ rather than, ‘who in the world could be one?’.
Zombie is using the remake to ask a similar question posed by the original: Who among us could be wearing a mask to hide from a brutal world, and was it the world that drove them to that point?
I think that Carpenter revealed the grim origins of Myers in a more profound way. He didn’t spell out a troubled and sadistic past the way Zombie did, and any violence in the remake by no means comes as a surprise to the audience because of this.
But it wasn’t Zombie’s intention to do so, nor was it his intention to replicate the tone or pace of the movie. Zombie is telling the story of a broken child at odds with a broken world, where sanctuary is found only behind a mask.
If you would class, please refer to any moment in the film where a character ISN’T hiding their true nature. Notice how Michael, a person who attempts to conceal his true self, reacts to the rest of the frankly vile world.
He pretty much kills or maims them in true Myers fashion.
Through this viewpoint, one might consider the moral service Myers seems to be doing the audience. The towering shots of Myers even as an adolescent suggest a coup de gras for his victims later on in the film. What irony might you find in that as a viewer?
As early as ten minutes into the film, we can watch Myers bludgeon an easily unlikeable bully with a tree limb after school. After begging for mercy, our antagonist puts his mask back on and finishes his attack. The bully, who just minutes before was dishonoring his sister, is then dispatched viciously.
The product of Zombie’s storytelling is no different from Carpenter’s in this sense. Every kill is not without extreme prejudice.
But Zombie retains some of the indiscriminate evil that Myers has always been known for. Through betrayal.
As Ismael Cruz (played by Danny Trejo), the loveable janitor who gives Myers wise advice about life behind bars, is later killed by an older and hulking Myers. By going against his early depiction of Myers, Zombie paints a picture of a more traditional Michael Myers.
It should be noted class, that when Cruz tells Myers that “learning to live inside” his head would keep him sane, the very Manson-esque rationale was then readily accepted by the mask wearing youth. This can be seen by the subsequent obsession with masks, which I found quite original.
The viewpoint of the film tends to get pretty personal. While we are watching a story about a giant peoplestabber, Zombie also has us peering in over the shoulder of many a character in the middle of every conversation.
When actors are in field, the viewpoint tends to be at a low, down to earth level with the characters. Often a character is directly in the middle of a shot. An up close and personal kind of thing. Again, this is a more human approach to Michael Myers, which helps drive the kinds of questions Zombie poses about our culture.
What is seen and heard in the film:
Zombie’s use of rapid editing during action sequences, albeit a mainstay in modern cinema, was used with tact in many areas of the film. These are coupled with free-roaming or “shaky” cinematography to give the film a human feeling, while side scrolling shots push along exposition.
In short, it’s a simple formula and it works for Zombie’s intent.
Another intent of his is to show off his hot wife, Sherri Moon Zombie.
We are all very aware of Zombie’s propensity to put her in his films, and while that may be very easy to dump on, I would like to note the nice strip tease performed by her in the film. This kind of sexual content, albeit more jacked up, was present in the original Halloween. And such would be evident to any ten year old boy in the seventies.
It’s also eye candy, which I won’t dispute is something most filmmakers are going for nowadays.
We can often hear dialogue among characters which are out of the shot, while abstract objects float around in the foreground. This is often used as a device to inhibit the measure of a character. And we certainly don’t get a good look at Myers when he is being verbally abused by his mom’s boyfriend. The imposing voice of Ronnie White (played by William Forsythe) referring to Myers as a ‘faggot’ seems larger than Myers himself, along with the blurry jack-0-lantern.
What is our antagonist thinking?
Is there anyone among the class who would say Zombie didn’t get it right when Myers gets his revenge by slitting White’s throat? The inverted shots, high pitched tones and suddenness wasn’t without favor for the audience? It encapsulated the spirit of a slasher in scenes such as this, and without replicating Carpenter, who executed similarly, yet with less for the viewer to go on.
Again, it is easy to slam remakes for their incongruity to the originals. And while I can get drunk on nostalgia as much as the next horror fan, I also can see the more polished turds from the least—a sobering thing when faced with such horrible remakes as I am Legend or Friday the 13th.
Just don’t get me started on Zombie’s choice for Malcolm McDowell to play Dr. Loomis.