By: Henry J. Fromage –
This week was another grab-bag of recent films, with a real horror bent. Seriously, Beauty and the Beast? Nightmares.
94. Dig Two Graves
This low-budget thriller makes the utmost of what scant money it had at its disposal. Its plot cross-cuts between the 1940s and the 1970s, tying them together with a murder mystery plot and a (dark) magical realist bent that keeps you engaged while you’re not being impressed with the incredibly crisp shot composition. A real calling card film.
This Mark Duplass-starring found footage horror film, in which he stars as a man, who I dub Mr. Redflags who asks a videographer up to his remote cabin to ostensibly document his soon to end life for his unborn son, is about what you’d expect. Mr. Redflags just waves red flags until he pretty much has to murder the videographer, because nothing else will apparently beat into this guy’s head how many red flags are flying in his face. Really pretty dumb all around.
Sightseers star Alice Lowe decided to write, direct, and star in a horror film about a pregnant woman wreaking gory revenge on the people complicit in the death of her boyfriend, all while 7 months pregnant herself, and in a scorching 18 days of writing + shooting. That something so well-polished, darkly comic, and damn creepy came out of that is probably even more surprising and impressive than Jordan Peele’s Get Out this year, and that’s saying something.
Dominic Monaghan, hilariously dodgy American accent and all, plays a animal control worker who can’t talk to a woman he likes (Ksenia Soto), and hop skips directly to locking her up in a cage in the bottom of the animal shelter. A battle of wits ensues that sees the tables turn several times in somewhat unexpected ways, and the plot go from silly to silly and supremely fucked up. Entertaining in that fucked up way, but far from as clever as it thinks it is.
98. Two Lovers and a Bear
This Dane DeHaan (yes, this was my wife’s choice) and Tatiana Maslany two-hander does feature committed acting from two of the most promising younger actors out there, but very little else to recommend it. The mentally imbalanced Romeo & Juliet in the frozen tundra story doesn’t deliver the goods, and don’t even get me started on the talking Polar Bear. Magic realism is not for everybody, or even most anybody, folks.
99. Beauty and the Beast
It’s disappointing to see Disney settle for pure nostalgia baiting after up until now demonstrating a willingness to try new and interesting directions with the whole “CGI-up our animated classics” initiative. While this has resulted in varying degrees of creative success (Cinderella yes, Maleficent not so much), at least there’s an inkling of ambition there. This Beauty and the Beast displays none of that, confident on smearing on a layer of literally dizzying and wholly unconvincing green screen onto the exact same story structure and riding a quarter century of nostalgia to a billion dollar box office gross. Practically the only interesting thing they do with the material is make the always there gay subtext fully, unabashedly text (way, way more than 30 seconds, guys), and for all its merits, even that is moving from some subtlety to none.
100. xXx: Return of Xander Cage
The cinematic equivalent of washing down a fistful of Viagra with a lukewarm Miller Lite, this film pushed the boundaries of Vin Diesel’s brand of aggressively brainless masculine posturing. And it’s goddamn entertaining. The man might have two Fast franchises now, and I’m okay with that.