Thursday, November 30, 2017

Boxing Helena

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  Remember to pack your Helena with old newspaper or bubble wrap before boxing.



Boxing Helena – 1 out of 5

Boxing Helena has always been a movie I’ve heard about but never bothered taking the time to seek out and watch.  Recently, after watching the return of Twin Peaks, I was reminded of its existence due to the fact it stars Sherilyn Fenn and it was a story from Jennifer Lynch, David Lynch’s daughter.  I figured that since I like David’s stuff—in an infuriating way because sometimes his stuff is so strange that I think even he doesn’t understand what he’s making—that I might enjoy what his child has created.  Well, that clearly wasn’t the case.

At least the film gave us Bill Paxton looking like he's cosplaying as Steve Perry.

Dr. Nick Cavanaugh (Julian Sands) is a successful surgeon (with a bit of a traumatic past) who, one day, crosses path with an old lover of his named; Helena (Sherilyn Fenn).  Their fling was short lived but Cavanaugh never forgot her and is quick to start obsessing once again.  He’s advised by a colleague; Dr. Lawrence Augustine (Art Garfunkel), that he should forget her and stay the course on his current life but he can’t let it go.  He starts to stalk and do everything he can to see her but when a hit-and-run leaves Helena injured, Cavanaugh’s obsession enters a new level of frightening as he amputates her arms and legs to prevent her from ever being able to leave him again.

Step 1:  Remove her limbs.  Step 2:  ???  Step 3:  Love!

Where do I begin with a 1993 movie that involves a dude so unhealthily obsessed with a woman that he would cut her limbs off in an effort to prove he loves her?  Well, I’ll start with saying that the premise isn’t actually too bad.  It’s super unsettling, very unnerving and has all the potential to be a really demented film that explored and dissects desire gone wrong.  The film ends up not taking that course as its tone is a little unclear and the development of the characters feels wholly unnatural.  Add in a very terrible and laughably cliché ending and it made for a film that completely wasted the promise it held.

In the fountain with her clothes on, what a free spirit!
Or a huge fan of Friends.

One thing that really had me perplexed about this film was how we were supposed to feel about Dr. Nick Cavanaugh.  On paper, he is undoubtedly the antagonist because he stalks a woman, holds her against her will and then mutilates her so she can’t escape—all in an effort to show he loves her.  However, the actually execution of the character muddied up the waters and made him a tad confusing.  First off, the story hints that he was subjected to sexual and emotion abuse from his mother and this is meant to simultaneously be something that explains both his desire to continue to want to be with Helena, because she is also abusive to him, but it also is a shorthand way of giving motivation as to why he would think that what he does to Helena is a correct course of action.  On the surface, having this backstory is great because it provides depth to Cavanaugh and it also adds just the right amount of sympathy to the character so he’s not over-the-top evil.  There’s nothing wrong with having your antagonists have multiple dimensions to them.  However, whether or not he truly is the bad guy really starts to become confusion and terribly unclear when other factors are added to the equation.

I hope Fenn got paid well for this film...and also for the injustices that were done
to her character in Twin Peaks.

I'm not entirely sure why Art Garfunkel was in the film.
And the way his hair always looked like it was in an
utter state of shock, I would say he didn't even
know why.
As it pertains to the performances, this film isn’t too bad.  Sherliyn Fenn is excellent as Helena and the supporting cast members of Kurtwood Smith as a colleague of Cavanaugh and Bill Paxton as one of Sherliyn’s lovers are great but Julian Sands as Cavanaugh himself I found to be pretty bad.  Sands’ performance is a great contributor to my confusion over the intention and handling of this character.  He plays the part with this child-like, almost inane sense of innocence that suggested to me that Sands believe the character to be the true victim and tthe abuse he took from his mother is to blame for what happened.  Combine this with his reactions to his “courtship” of Helena made it seem like Sand truly believed that Cavanaugh was just a “nice guy” who was trying to cash in his “friendly coins" into “bone-zone” time with Helena.  To put it bluntly, Sands made the character look like one of those fedora wearing neckbeard guys online who think the “Friend Zone” is a real thing.  This performance doesn’t feel like this was done as an exploration of how dangerous this line of falsely believed relationship payment can be but rather like he truly believes that a woman has to repay moments of kindness and misguided devotion with sex and a relationship.  Maybe Sands is really a great performer as this “nice guy” routine feels genuine but the true intent for this character becomes even more confusing when one final factor is put into place.

This movie needs to be remade but, this time, written specifically with the purpose
that Cavanaugh is a douche who thinks the "Friend Zone" is real.

Red saying "Dumbass" came to mind several times
when I watched this film.
Since filmmaking began, writers and producers have had a tenuous grasp at best with how the heart works.  Too often, what appears to be Stockholm Syndrome is what passes for love on the big screen and Hollywood has perpetuated the idea that women will eventually come around and open herself up to a man, no matter how shitty of a person that dude was (to see this at its most disgusting and lazily written, take a look at Passengers).  Boxing Helena does this as, Spoiler Alert for a film that is old enough to drink, Helena ends up falling in love with Cavanaugh.  How exactly does this happen?  Hell if I know because it comes out of left field.  Jennifer Lynch treats us to a few scenes that, I suppose, are meant to show us that Helena is suddenly becoming okay with the idea that this man mutilated her and is keeping her prisoner just so he can get naughty fun time with her but this never feels organic.  The moment where she confesses her love feels forced.  This uneven presentation can be written off because, at the end, we learn that it is all a dream of Cavanaugh’s—once again, Spoiler Alert for a movie that is over two decades old.  It could be argued that Helena’s sudden turn is due to the unpredictability of dreams and Cavanaugh’s subconscious giving him what he wants.  I won’t deny that.  However, it can also be argued that this was the Lynch’s lazy and terribly uncreative way of trying to be strange like her father and it just manifested itself in the most predictable way possible.

Subtlety!

Boxing Helena has a premise that feels like it should be a great dark feature that explores the depths of human depravity and how corrupted a person’s feelings can be twisted.  Ultimately though, the film comes undone by a tone and atmosphere that feels unfocused as the concept offers up one thing, the actually story seems to be showing something else and the lead actor feels like he is doing his own thing all together.  When that is added to a very lazy and unsatisfying conclusion, it made for a film that was amazingly disappointing.  Sure, it has some shocking images and themes woven within it but all the shock is wasted when the whole thing feels like it has no idea what it is trying to accomplish and then decides to give the middle finger to the audience by delivering a “Ha ha, fooled you” ending.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hard Boiled

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  I always thought this movie was about a certain way of preparing eggs.




Hard Boiled – 4 out of 5

When people think of great action films this 1992 masterpiece from John Woo is one that is on every “Best of” list.  Believe it or not, though, I’ve never actually seen it.  Sure, I’ve seen the clips here and there on YouTube.  Moments like Chow Yun-fat sliding down the handrail and shooting the bad guys or bits from the epic hospital sequence in the final act but I’ve never actually sat down and watched Hard Boiled from beginning to end.  I decided to rectify that.

Very few iconic action films contain scenes that have men carrying birdcages.
Seems like a shame honestly.

Triad leader; Johnny Wong (Anthony Wong), is out to recruit a hitman named Alan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) and get him away from rival crime boss; Uncle Hoi (Kwan Hoi-Shan).  Little does Wong know, Alan is undercover for the Hong Kong police department and is out to take the organization down from the inside.  Meanwhile, Inspector “Tequila” Yuen (Chow Yun-fat) is taking matters into his own hands after his partner is killed and is out to bring the Triads down, no matter the cost.  If they don’t kill each other first, Tequila and Alan must work together and see their mutual enemies brought to justice.  The type of justice that comes with a very high body count!

If this was me, I would have missed every shot and been hit several times by my enemies...
or I would have fallen backwards over the rail and then be hit several times
by my enemies.

It was a tad unnecessary that he spiked the baby
like a football after he got away from the explosion.
Hard Boiled is a pretty insane film that is quite bonkers with the action.  “Bonkers” in a great and very fun way, mind you.  Chow Yun-fat is already a legend in the industry and this film is one of the reasons he has that status.  The action is big, intense, and doesn’t flinch with its brutality.  Director John Woo wasn’t afraid to put his actors in the line of fire and he sure didn’t shy away from having a story where lots of innocent people die and the police don’t think twice about pulling the trigger on criminals.  Seriously, this movie LOVES showing big crowds of people get mowed down by automatic gun fire.  

Meanwhile, not a single Triad can land a single glancing bullet off of Tequila
when he's out in the open and two feet away.

Just looking at him and you know he is the henchman
that is the most badass.
As exciting as the action is the movie is far from perfect.  Granted, it’s still really good but the story does have some issues and some of its presentation is a bit odd.  While the story is essentially a tale about an undercover cop and an obsessed cop coming together to stop some criminals, the whole thing does feel like it is trying to overcomplicate itself at times and look like it is giving the impression it is deeper than it really is.  This is most notable when it concerns the undercover cop; Alan.  It’s obvious from the beginning that this dude isn’t 100% bad guy but the movie unsuccessfully tries to act like the reveal that he’s actually an undercover cop was momentous.  I half expected John Woo to lean out from behind the camera and say, “Wow!  I didn’t see that coming, did you?”  This aspect isn’t an entertainment killer but it did make me chuckle because it felt like Woo was trying to make something bigger out of his already cool action film and it just didn’t need to be. 

The 90s, where it was possible to be a badass in a boxy suit.

One element that I really didn’t enjoy was the score.  At times the music is a synth-y type of music and that was fine for the era but other times the feature has something a little jazzier.  Now having jazz music as the score does make logical sense because Tequila plays clarinet in a jazz band but, overall, I found it distracting.  This genre is no stranger to the action films because the more emotional side of these films have had jazz music in the past but, for some reason, I had a hard time not laughing every time a smooth jazz lick came in and tried to compliment a scene and enhance the mood.  

I'm sad there wasn't a scene that involved a Triad gang member laughing at him
playing the clarinet and then Tequila beating him up with it.

I love the launching power of bullets in movies.
Hard Boiled had just a few small problems but the overall experience is still really exciting.  The acting is great, the story (even with its issues) works and the action is astounding.  The entire third act is one long action scene at a hospital and it is bananas!  Sure, sometimes the action gets a little too over-the-top and you have moments where gun shots are sending dudes spiraling into the air but that’s part of the fun.  What’s even better about this feature is that it is John Woo’s final film before he made the jump to Hollywood so all the slow-motion scenes aren't obnoxiously over stylized and have yet to become his defining characteristic as a director that was later being used as a shorthand joke for the guy's career.  Overall, this is one cool movie!

Monday, November 27, 2017

The Trip to Italy

***DISCLAIMER*** The following review is entirely my opinion. If you comment (which I encourage you to do) be respectful. If you don't agree with my opinion (or other commenters), that's fine. To each their own. These reviews are not meant to be statements of facts or endorsements, I am just sharing my opinions and my perspective when watching the film and is not meant to reflect how these films should be viewed. Finally, the reviews are given on a scale of 0-5. 0, of course, being unwatchable. 1, being terrible. 2, being not great. 3, being okay. 4, being great and 5, being epic! And if you enjoy these reviews feel free to share them and follow the blog or follow me on Twitter (@RevRonster) for links to my reviews and the occasional live-Tweet session of the movie I'm watching!  I ate pizza while watching this, I consider doing that made the film an immersive experience.




The Trip to Italy – 4 out of 5

I’m not one to travel abroad.  I have anxiety issues and just leaving my house to grocery shop, go to the movies, and get some food or even just walking outside to get the mail makes me very uncomfortable.  I can’t even imagine how I’ll break down leaving the country.  Sitting in the comfort of my home watching movies allows me to experience travel without the costs and the unease I feel when in public situations surrounded by people.  When you have two very funny people in that movie and watch them drive around, eat amazing looking food, playfully tease each other and listen to Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill like you do with The Trip to Italy, it easily satisfies any lingering threat of seeing the world that may be manifesting in my head.  I’m a shut-in, people.

Oh man, that's such a lovely view.  Oops, almost had that desire to venture
out of my house.

Rob (Rob Brydon) is hired by a newspaper to do a tour of Italy and to loosely follow the path of the great Italian poets.  He quickly invites his best friend Steve (Steve Coogan) to join him.  What follows are two hilarious dudes eating some amazing looking food, arguing who can do the better impressions of famous celebrities, discussing their careers and seeing where this adventure takes them in their personal lives.

And it has to be mentioned again that they were listening to Jagged Little Pill
every time they were driving...and that is just awesome!
I completely forgot how amazing that album is.

I really enjoyed the series this film was based on (or sequel-ed to, however you wanna put it).  I think Coogan and Brydon have such great chemistry together and they are such talented comedic forces that this escapade was very engaging and enjoyable to watch.  Both men do a tremendous job of improvising all the conversations they are having so it made the whole film feel like you were just a “fly on the wall” watching the two men enjoying each other’s company and playfully antagonizing one another when the conversations started to get mundane.  The product isn’t very high concept and the humor it presents is extremely down-to-earth but that’s why it works so well.  It’s very dry and grounded nature is what made this and the series The Trip so appealing to me.  The story even manages to work in some light drama for an even greater overall effect.  The drama is never too heavy or over-the-top so, like the comedy, its proportions it delivers creates a sense of realism.

I would love to sit at a table with them.  I wouldn't say a word.  I'd just sit
there, eat quietly and watch them talk.

Another aspect of the feature I really enjoyed was director Michael Winterbottom's use of B-roll.  As Coogan and Brydon would dine at intimate little restaurants the film would often cut away to the surrounding views or the kitchen crews working away at making the meals.  This seems like such a no-brainer and simple thing to add to the film but this just enhanced the realism of the movie.  This minor detail made The Trip to Italy feel more like a documentary and only further highlighted the vibe that you were just watching two friends hanging out together on holiday and sharing a meal.

Damn, this movie made me very hungry.

Again, if they make another film, I'd love to just hang
out at their table.  I promise I'll be quiet.
Overall, I found nothing really holding The Trip to Italy back.  I will admit that replay value might be a little on the low side for me because, as funny as the film is, the story isn’t really heavy on smaller memorable moments but, instead, it’s one big experience.  Without a collection of memorable scenes and it rather being just one long experience, it might not be something I find myself in the mood for very often; unlike in the show where I could watch the Michael Caine scene over and over again.  Ultimately, however, what makes this a great movie is the performances of both Coogan and Brydon and the way the comedy and drama is handled.  These two elements are delivered in perfect proportions, balanced excellently and are presented tremendously that the whole film feels like one of those astounding dishes the two men are seen eating throughout the story.  That metaphor might play into my ideas about the replay value.  This movie isn’t a comfort food that is nothing but empty calories but are so good to enjoy all the time (like mindless action films or dumb comedies) but rather it’s an exquisite meal that must be savored and enjoyed on infrequent occasions.  And now this food metaphor has me hungry.