Archive for the ‘ Reviews ’ Category

Funny Games

If one had to walk into a DVD Nouveau and ask to be disturbed, the friendly man behind the desk would insist you rent Funny Games. This has happened to me personally and yes the DVD Nouveau man was right; Funny Games is truly a unique thrilling experience that is quite impossible to articulate simply. Funny Games is more than a psychological thriller. Funny Games delivers a groundbreaking unsettling experience of which you will be completely uncomfortable throughout. Mark Kemode of the Observer wrote that “rarely has a film-maker exercised such perverse precision in his desire to torment an audience for whom he clearly harbours unbridled contempt.” This is the vision of director, Michael Haneke. He crafted a film that was not intended to be a mere horror, but rather a rebuke of violence in American cinema. The film never shows explicit gore of any kind, but rather cleverly evokes terror with suggestion. Michael Haneke crafted this movie with contempt towards the audience and intended for people to walk out of cinemas. What results is something that deeply disturbs me to this day. This movie, unless understood, will be perceived as a pointless two hours of filmed anguish. However, Funny Games delivers an unforgettable film experience like no other.

Beneath the smirk lurks a monster

Funny Games is a shot-for-shot remake of Michael Haneke’s predecessor and takes place in the U.S. with different actors. Funny Games follows a family that is held captive, terrorized and tortured in the Hamptons by two young boys (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett). The violence occurs off-screen and the audience is only exposed to the reactions and screams of the abused couple and child. The parents are played by Naomi Watts and Tim Roth and deliver immaculate performances.

Funny Games attempts to torment the audience by breaking usual horror movie rules. Additionally, the antagonists have the ability to address the audience directly and can rewind time at will. Furthermore, the film’s aesthetic is pristine which inherently feels very anti-horror. What results is a film that blindsides its audience with a strange punch of torment. Michael Haneke crafts a film that ensures that the audience leaves agonized, frustrated and discontent. And he sure succeeds. Watching this film was a lot like being a part of the tortured family. Funny Games lashes out at society’s attraction to gore and violence. This bizarre film, consequently, led to incredibly mixed reviews.

The game begins

Papa and son are also part of the fun

Naomi has had enough fun

Funny Games is truly a stroke of genius. However, it is definitely not appropriate for a cozy movie night or anything like that. It is not for the faint-hearted. Funny Games will leave you disturbed, frustrated and confused but despite this it is recommendable.

Are you bored of typical horror films where girls in underwear are hacked to death by men in masks? Are you tired of clichéd plot lines? Are you an open-minded individual willing to embrace a new kind of film experience? Are you brave enough to endure Michael Haneke’s attack on contemporary society? If you answer yes to all the above questions, then Funny Games may just be for you.

If you are brave enough to embark on the Funny Games ride, firstly Popcornography commends you and secondly make sure you get the 2007 U.S. remade version. This one has Naomi Watts. Everyone loves Naomi. And it is set in the Hamptoms.  The Hamptoms is fabulous.

For more on Funny Games, check out the trailer (if you dare). HIGHLY recommended!

Pretty Persuasion

Popcornography has been running long enough for you all to know the truth. It is time to come clean and reveal my, not so secret, obsession with Evan Rachel Wood. Pretty Persuasion is 2005 black comedy satirical film that personifies Evan Rachel Wood like no other. Pretty Persuasion is my all time favourite dark comedy and deserves special Popcornography treatment.

Now before I begin to swoon shamelessly, Pretty Persuasion is about a 15 year old school girl who causes a fuss by accusing her drama teacher of sexual harassment. When Kimberley Joyce (Evan Rachel Wood) makes the above mentioned allegations she drags her friends, family as well as the media into her sinister plot. If you thought Mean Girls was twisted, then you have never seen school-girl evil quite like that demonstrated by Miss Wood. This film is upsetting and truly dark whilst concurrently managing to be utterly hilarious. Pretty Persuasion will have you on a roller coaster ride of emotions, all of which will be intense. But please, I would hate you to be fooled, Pretty Persuasion is no regular teen comedy and Kimberly Joyce is certainly no Regina George. In fact, Evan Rachel Wood makes Regina George seem like a Care Bear. And that is no easy feat.

Traumatizing the new girl 101

Besides the twisted, evil and methodological plotting of a 15 year-old, Pretty Persuasion has so much more to offer. The director, Marcos Siega, depicts an upscale 90210 high school as a metaphor for everything in contemporary American life. However, this is not new as we have seen this many times in film such as Heathers or Election. Screenwriter, Skander Halim, goes all out and focuses on a vast amount of issues in his satirical writing i.e. race, sex, gender identity, materialism, blackmail, intolerance, sexual harassment, discrimination, the war in Iraq, ignorance, suicide, celebrity and homosexuality. Pretty Persuasion embodies a tremendous amount of depth which lifts it above the regular teen comedy. To enhance the themes of materialism and moral decay, the film does not feature any popular music and does not feature contemporary branding of any kind. Social commentary sneaks in everywhere and we love it.

The epitome of family dysfunction 

 Consequent internal troubles

Evan Rachel Wood is scary good in this film. Emphasis on the scary. Her affinity towards challenging and daring material is awe-inspiring. Let’s not forget her role in Thirteen or more recently her part in Mildred Pierce. OBVIOUSLY, Evan would play a vampire queen in Trueblood. Evan loves to shock people. There is no one that makes interesting film choices quite like Evan.

Kimberley Joyce, an angst-ridden teen with a razor sharp mind and cruel agenda, is played almost too perfectly. Beautiful, evil geniuses excite me and the best of these is undoubtedly Kimberley Joyce. Evan’s portrayal of the troubled teen was praised by critics and these daring roles have lead to her mainstream success. Marrying Marilyn Manson did not hurt I am sure, but the gorgeous and incredibly talented Evan Rachel Wood can do no wrong.

Evan misbehaves in detention

Evan does what it takes to succeed. Women

Black comedies are rarely done well. And although Pretty Persuasion is often preachy, it delivers in shock-value, depth and genuine laughs. Besides this, Evan is perfect (as always). Lastly, Pretty Persuasion teaches us the importance of knowing whose boyfriend you are stealing. Do not miss Pretty Persuasion.

For more on Pretty Persuasion check out the trailer. 

The Talented Mr Ripley

…it’s like the sun shines on you, and it’s glorious. And then he forgets you and it’s very very cold.” spoken by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1999 psychological thriller film The Talented Mr Ripley by Anthony Minghella.

The Talented Mr Ripley is outstanding. It is fascinating to watch the skilled Tom Ripley (Matt Damon) deal with the horrific consequences of his endeavours. The Talented Mr Ripley follows Tom Ripley who is sent to retrieve a filthy rich and spoiled playboy; Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) from 1950s Europe. Unfortunately things do not go smoothly. Tom Ripley sure can forge signatures and impersonate people. Matt Damon plays the obsessed psychopath perfectly and I was continuously amazed by his performance. After establishing a (suspiciously) close friendship with the playboy millionaire, the plot soon twists into dark themes of unrequited love and obsession.

Stalky

Stalky stalky

When you find yourself sympathizing with sly, tricky and clever homicidal psychopaths, you can be sure that the performance is top notch. Gwyneth Paltrow plays the heart breaking role of Dickie Greenleaf’s girlfriend. My heart bled as she gets further entangled in the lies of Tom Ripley. However, it is Jude Law that really impresses. Dickie Greenleaf is amazing. He is gorgeous, charming and charismatic so much that one can understand the root of Tom’s obsession. As the mistreated Gwyneth so eloquently expresses, Dickie’s attention is sought after and when it subsides, it is difficult to handle. Dickie’s attention would drive anyone to homicidal behaviour. Tom Ripley would certainly agree. Losing

Let’s sum up why you should watch The Talented Mr Ripley. Ahem.

Number 1: Tom Ripley sure is a tricky one. Matt Damon delivers a career-best performance and gives new meaning to the word stalker.

Number 2: Gwyneth will have you sympathizing with her before long. No one plays the victim quite like old Gwyneth.

Gwyneth grows suspicious

Number 3: Watching the plot descend into darkness is truly fascinating. Despite how unnerving it becomes, there is a morbid fascination with how Tom Ripley outsmarts everyone.

Number 4: Jude Law is delightful. I want to be in San Remo with Jude Law. Like now. Like right now.

Number 5: The boat scene is truly moving and disturbing all at once. You won’t look at boat oars the same way ever again. The Talented Mr Ripley teaches us that hiring boats with psychotic stalkers is unwise.

Why would anyone hit this with a boat oar? I just don’t understand

Disturbing, ominous and thrilling, The Talented Mr Ripley should not be missed.

For more on obsessed homicidal stalkers, check out the trailer for The Talented Mr Ripley. 

American History X

American History X poster

You think you’re the only one doin’ time, Derek? You think you’re here all alone? You think I’m not in here with you?!,” spoken by Beverly D’Angelo in Tony Kaye’s 1998 American drama film American History X.

Popcornography learnt a very important lesson this week. What it is you may wonder? The lesson is; despite how many times you watch American History X, it never becomes less disturbing. Re-watching it this past week, only served to bring back all the immense uneasiness that I worked so hard to diminish over the years. The profound and thought provoking film is today’s inspiration for Quote of the Day.

American History X, obviously hits close to home with regard to its strong theme of hate encouraged by racial prejudice. Very few countries can watch a film such as American History X and identify with as strongly as we South Africans do. American History X follows the lives of two brothers residing in Venice Beach in California. Daddy fights fire and dies due to an unfortunate incident involving black drug dealers. The murder of his father, leads Derek (the eldest brother) to become obsessed with the issue of racial prejudice. After Derek, brutally murders two black gang members he is sentenced to three years imprisonment for voluntary manslaughter. The story focuses around Danny, the youngest and impressionable brother, who begins to follow in Derek’s misguided footsteps. The entire Vineyard family’s descent into darkness occurs as a result of the hatred harboured by Derek and Danny. However, during Derek’s imprisonment he establishes an emotional friendship with a black inmate and ultimately learns to relinquish his inherently harboured hatred. Upon his release, Derek struggles to be reintroduced to his family and friends who are trapped in the now overpowering Neo-Nazi movement of Venice Beach. INTENSE stuff.

Edward is angry a lot of the time

The film is shot in a mixture of black and white as well as colour which serves to reiterate the strong themes the film carries. American History X received overwhelmingly favourable reviews and led to an Academy Award nomination for Edward Norton. In my opinion, this is certainly Edward’s most powerful and moving performance. American History X is moving for a number of reasons. Firstly, the inmate whom Derek befriends is the unsung hero of the story and provides much needed comic relief. Additionally, watching the family’s crisis explode is truly unnerving. In particular, Derek’s mother (Doris) gives a heartbreaking performance as she struggles to cope with the nightmare of murderous and imprisoned sons. Poor Doris. I’m sorry Doris. It wasn’t your fault.

Catching up with mama

Despite its profound message, American History X is never preachy but more visceral. Riddled with controversial themes, brutal violence, nudity and profane language, American History X is an awfully difficult experience to endure. So why in the world would you want to suffer through this? Popcornography implores you. Films as powerful as American History X are rare. These films are directorial visions created to challenge their audiences with powerful albeit unpleasant messages. In short, this film will trap you in a glass case of emotion. It is that intense. But don’t be frightened. American History X is spectacular, transcends entertainment and is totally worth it.

To get you through the daunting task of watching American History X, I have prepared a list. I like lists. I call it Popcornography’s guide to surviving American History X. Ahem…

Number 1: Edward Norton is really a nice guy in real life. Well actually I don’t know. But he sure doesn’t kill anyone in Keeping the Faith.

Number 2: In prison, when other people leave the shower that is your cue to ALSO leave the shower. We know this. Sadly, Edward did not know this.

Number 3: There is no defence against the strife of a battered woman. Doris will cry numerous times. It is okay. It is just a movie.

Number 4: The teeth-on-the-curb scene is coming. There is nothing you can do about it. Just embrace it.

Leave the shower Edward…

American History X shower

Get up, Doris 

For more on American History X, check out the trailer! 

The Village

“Let the bad colour not be seen. It attracts them.

Never enter the woods. That is where they wait.

Heed the warning bell, for they are coming”

Back in 2004, M. Night Shymalan was still a good director. Good is a vicious understatement, he was a genius. Unfortunately, The Village could be seen as the turning point in M. Night Shyamalan’s career. After The Village, there were movies about the planet being homicidal, women in water as well as little bald airbenders and it seemed that Mr Shymalan had indeed lost his mind. It pains me to say this, but old Shymalan has never recovered. The infamous writer, producer and director had already achieved success as the master story-teller behind The Sixth Sense and Signs. However, this fantasy thriller deserves its own special mention being the last evidence that Shymalan has/had directorial skill.

The most wonderful aspect of all early Shymalan’s early films was that they were far more multidimensional than simple horror stories. Ignorant people are forever saying Signs wasn’t scary and therefore it was “kak”. I will cut you. It is not meant to be scary, it is meant to be a story about faith. Similarly The Village is at essence a profound love story about lovers overcoming fear and adversity. People who want to watch scantily clad women being slaughtered are going to be very disappointed with The Village. Sure they both have EFFING scary moments but they are so much more than that. However, don’t be fooled and don’t get cut, The Village is a story about love.

Love is blind

“What good is it to tell you you are in my every thought from the time I wake? What good can come from my saying that I sometimes cannot think clearly or do my work properly? What gain can rise of my telling you the only time I feel fear as others do is when I think of you in harm? That is why I am on this porch, Ivy Walker. I fear for your safety before all others. And yes, I will dance with you on our wedding night.

So let’s break it down. Set in the late 19th century, a small community lives in relative peace surrounded, quite literally, by fear and the woods. A truce between the villagers and those they do not speak of is what sustains this way of life. Basically, hooded bush-monsters that have a thing for the colour red, terrorize the townsfolk into waylaying their travel plans. So the town’s vibe is secluded, safe and wholesome – free of greed and violence; or is it? The menacing plot unfolds as Joaquin Phoenix’s blind lover ventures into the woods to gather medicine from surrounding ‘towns’ and all the secrets start to unravel. Intriguing stuff.

The bush monster cometh

So then there’re these elders – leaders of the village who claim to have the best intentions of the community in mind.  No one does repressed authority quite like William Hurt and Sigourney Weaver. These elders breed. However, their children aren’t that easy to control. Lucius Hunt (played by the quietly brilliant Joaquin Phoenix) is the austere antithesis of the fear-based society. He is brave, sincere and honourable. Ivy Walker (The Help’s Bryce Dallas Howard) is the blind protagonist who ‘sees’ the world differently. Youthful and enchanting, Ivy embodies the innocence that the elders cherish in their village. They fall in love, it’s beautiful. Alas it’s short-lived.

Ivy Walker sure has a tough time

Startled elders

Indicative of their love and perhaps The Village’s strongest moment is the safety drill scene. This scene stands out as one of Shyamalan’s most beautifully crafted. Allow me to summarise:

  • The warning bell
  • Widespread panic
  • Ivy’s out-stretched hand in the dark
  • Sister pleading hysterically
  • Grunting, cloaked bush monster approaches
  • …the music soars and Lucius swoops in at the last minute. With their hands clasped they retreat underground. Very moving stuff.

Sister just wants Ivy to come inside

Adrien Brody plays Noah Percy – a developmentally challenged Ivy admirer. Brody does good. His performance of this pivotal character is deeply unnerving. It’s because of his actions that our blind heroine is thrust into the forbidden woods and beyond. Hysterically, she struggles to escape her fears as Shyamalan characteristically plays with our perception of what is real. You cannot help feeling sorry for the lost blind girl as she is stalked by monstrous beasts in the cold dark woods. The lengths Ivy will go through to save Lucius is truly touching. The love that drives her is awe-inspiring and makes this Shyamalan film one of my all time favourites.

This situation seems dire

If we know anything about Shymalan, expect a twist or two. Twisty, twisty.

Additionally, James Newton Howard’s Oscar nominated score was poignant and unsettling whilst enhancing these intense moments.

Listen to the beautiful soundtrack. Listen to it 

For more Village-y goodness check out the trailer!

Se7en

What’s in the box? What’s in the box?!” spoken by Brad Pitt in David Fincher’s 1995 American thriller Se7en.

Shame poor Brad. Seven follows two detectives (Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt) on their quest to hunt and capture a serial killer. The homicidal psychopath (Kevin Spacey, OOPS spoiler) punishes his victims for committing one of the seven deadly sins. Kevin Spacey portrays the demented killer perfectly. His calm and controlled demeanor is unbelievably chilling. Brad Pitt strays away from his pretty boy image while portraying the young, hot-headed detective. And old Morgan is always lovely. Lovelier still, is Gwyneth Paltrow who plays Brad’s sweet and innocent wife who unfortunately meets a gruesome end thanks to Spacey’s sinister games. Seven is the classic homicidal psychopath film and is surely what is responsible for the inspiration for series such as Saw. However, Seven is far superior in every way. The murder scenarios are horrific ESPECIALLY the ‘lust’ victim. Clever and disturbing with a shocking ending. After all, it leaves Brad screaming about boxes and serves as inspiration for today’s Quote of the Day.

Brad is distressed but with good reason

The ‘lust’ murder is all kinds of messed up

The scene you will never forget…

Watch Seven. Let’s sum it up. Brad is good. Spacey is AMAZING. The ‘lust’ and ‘box’ scenes will leave you disturbed and nauseated. And it’s hard not to tear up for poor Gwyneth and Brad. The demented killer succeeds in his intricate and devilish plans. And the film will leave you questioning your humanity. It is that intense. You will never forget Kevin Spacey and his box, I can assure you. Oh, and on a side note, look at this cute animation of the infamous scene! Look at it!

Cute!

For more on Se7en, check out trailer!

Troll 2

This post is going to be quite peculiar. Many even go as far to say that it may be the worst film of all time. So you may wonder what it is doing on the prestigious blog that is Popcornography. I will tell you. Troll 2 is so bad, and I mean really REALLY bad, that it is actually good. This may be the only movie that I have ever seen that completely fails at almost every aspect of film-making and yet is able to retain its watch ability. But please note that this movie was not intended to be the train wreck that it is. It is no Snakes on a Plane. This was a horror project which failed dismally. Troll 2, although produced back in 1990, has received much attention of late purely because it is just so darn bad. Subsequently, Troll 2 has mustered an intense cult following and has even given rise to the documentary entitled; Best Worst Movie. The documentary was released in 2009 and follows and chronicles the films surprisingly large cult following.

Trolls? Goblins? Tiny men in potato sacks? Fail.

The strange thing about Troll 2 is that it has nothing to do with trolls of any kind. A movie entitled Troll was released at some point or another but it has no relation to Troll 2 whatsoever. Troll 2 is about vegetarian goblins that pursue a family. The goblins stalk and taunt the family. The goblins, being vegetarian, seek to turn the victimized family members into vegetable-human hybrids so that they can then eat them. Like I said… BIZZARE.  The son, Joshua, is also warned of the goblins by his dead grandfather and there was also something about a woman seducing male characters with popcorn. This made no sense. Well, especially this…

Popcornography in practice?

“You can’t piss on hospitality!” – If only the dad were right…

Goblin make-up must have taken hours

Before I watched the movie, I made sure to check out the documentary that received critical success upon release in 2009. The child star from the movie (Michael Stephenson), details the struggles resulting from participating in the infamous film. The actors involved hid their shame for their entire lives and their careers in showbiz were consequently doomed. With the success of its re-release, in addition to its extensive fan base, these failed wannabe actors are finally getting some attention. It’s a little late however. Shame.

The documentary is very interesting. The director is a freak who still maintains that his film is a ‘masterpiece’. His wife was responsible for the script of Troll 2. Apparently she was “pissed off” that all her friends became vegetarian and decided to portray her frustration in a ‘horror’ film?? Both the director and wife can barely speak English. According to the cast, they were mostly kept in the dark with regards to the confusing script and concept. Thus they were devastated when they finally bared witness to the VHS release years later. Unanticipated shame is the worst kind. I must reiterate how truly deluded these people are. The director is a self-righteous douche. The editor of the film went as far to say that Troll 2 is, and I quote, “a ferocious analysis of modern day society.” What is happening!? Am I even surprised that the drug-store owner was played by a mental patient who was high for the majority of production? No.

Mental disorders and marijuana do not lead to Oscar nominations

Troll 2 proves that the world is a crazy place. If you want to experience one of the most shocking, ridiculous and low budget films LIKE EVER, watch Troll 2. Some of my favourite moments include lines delivered by the daughter and mother. You have never seen anything this horrendous (I can assure you) and yet fascination urges you to continue watching. It’s truly odd. Additionally, the infamous “Oh my God” scene has received over three million hits on Youtube and many techno remixes and mash-ups exist. Some people have too much time.

The infamous “Oh my Gaaaaaaahhhhd” scene. Oh em gee 

Check out the modern Troll 2 trailer for the re-release. Dramatic or ridiculous? Mostly ridiculous. 

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