Monthly Archives: September 2013
Uncanny! Unbelievable! Terrifying!
That’s right, boys and ghouls, the terror is just right around the corner. In just a few short hours, you will be subjected to all sorts of different monsters, ghouls, ghosts, and goblins. So, make up your own spookparty and come on down! You may be afraid to go home alone!
-Theater Management (Steve)
Anti-Film School does not claim ownership of the video.
Original art provided by Eva Halloween.
by Steve Habrat
In 1976, little Opie Taylor himself Ron Howard starred in the Roger Corman car chase movie called Eat My Dust, agreeing to be in the film if B-movie king Corman would let him direct his own picture down the line. A year later, Corman made good on his promise and he let Howard direct Grand Theft Auto, his own car chase comedy tailored for the drive-in crowd. Several years and A-list movies later, it seems that the speed demon that lurks within Howard still hasn’t been tamed. Racing into theaters just in time for awards season is Rush, a stylish and sexy Formula One action-drama that also happens to be based on the real-life rivalry of James Hunt and Niki Lauda. From the time the green light flashes and those Formula One racecars roar to life, it’s clear that Rush is trying to blast itself straight into Oscar gold. While the melodramatic pauses that break up the tightly edited and sleekly framed action sequences might prevent Academy members from voting it into the Best Picture category, the film is a technical wonder, featuring screen-shredding crashes and sound work that kicks up the loose popcorn and Sour Patch Kids that are stuck to the theater floor. There are also the central performances, especially from newcomer Daniel Bruhl, who speeds off with nearly every single scene he struts steps into.
Picking up in 1970, Rush introduces us to lowly Formula Three racers James Hunt (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (played by Daniel Bruhl), who quickly develop a fierce rivalry on the track of the Crystal Palace circuit in England. From 1970 to 1976, the British party boy Hunt and the all-business Austrian Lauda battle to enter the ranks of the Formula One drivers. In 1976, their rivalry was pushed to the breaking point as they went head-to-head in the Formula One races, risking their lives one race at a time to become the world champion. Meanwhile, their rivalry begins to spill over into their personal lives as Hunt struggles to hold on to his wife, supermodel Suzy Miller (played by Olivia Wilde), and first-place holder Lauda grapples with the fact that Hunt is breathing down his neck for the number one. The relationship between Hunt and Lauda takes a curious turn when Lauda is involved in a horrific car wreck that leaves him with third-degree burns covering his most of his face and badly damaged lungs. While fighting for his life, Lauda watches as Hunt closes in on the number one spot, which causes Lauda to make a speedy recovery and get back in the tournament.
Like most car films, Rush explores those who truly feel alive when they are defying death at over 100 miles per hour. Being a sports movie, the film never veers into existential terrain like such efforts as the recent art house thriller Drive or the high-octane cult-classic Vanishing Point. Howard and screenwriter Peter Morgan are more intrigued by the blistering rivalry between these two drastically different personalities and how, in the end, they actually needed each other. They balance the rat-faced geek vs. handsome jock act quite well, slipping it into tightly edited race sequences that make you feel like you’re squeezed into the driver’s seat with Hemsworth and Bruhl. Most thrilling are the races set against torrential downpours, placing us behind the helmets of Hunt and Lauda as they frantically search for a way to outdo the other. With visibility a blur and the engines rupturing our ear drums, you can’t help but admire these men as they put their lives on the line for a chance to stand above a cheering crowd and spray champagne into the air. What truly astonishes is the calm demeanor and nonchalant boldness of these men as the hop behind these mechanical beasts. They seem invincible, but Howard reminds us that they are flesh and blood through compound fractures and the fiery crash that almost takes Lauda’s life.
Bringing these two fearless daredevils to life are the brilliant Bruhl and Hemsworth, both of which settle quite nicely into the skin of their characters. Hemsworth sharpens his acting abilities as the playboy Hunt, who stumbles around the racetrack with a cigarette dangling from his mouth and a chugging a bottle of booze like he may never be allowed another drink. He’s irresistible to women, who get weak in the knees over the self-assured smile he flashes their way, and everyone seems to genuinely enjoy his presence when he steps into the party. The only time he ever shows any sort vulnerability is when he vomits before a race or when he is faced with the possibility that he may not get sponsored. At the other end of the spectrum is Bruhl’s Lauda, a squeaky clean stickler for the rules who is early to bed and early to rise. He rises to fame through money and by barking orders at the bewildered mechanics wondering just who the hell the guy thinks he is. He’s cold, calculating, and absolutely relentless in trying to keep Hunt down, spending every single solitary second tinkering with his car. Of the two men, Bruhl is the one who comes out on top, giving a top-notch performance that you just can’t take your eyes off. Don’t be surprised if you see his name among the Best Actors list when the nominees are announced.
With so much focus on the complicated relationship between Hunt and Lauda, Howard seems to be largely uninterested in adding a spark to each man’s personal life. Sure, we catch glimpses of Hunt’s crumbling marriage but it only gets maybe five minutes of screen time, and Lauda’s devotion to Alexandra Maria Lara’s Marlene Knaus is seen only through the silent glances that they continuously share. Wilde and Lara try to rise above their underdeveloped roles by hovering around television screens and holding their breath for their warring speed junkies, but none of the behind-closed-doors melodrama comes close to matching the breathless exhilaration of the races. Further muting the drama are the raw violin musical cues from composer Hans Zimmer, who contributes a beautiful but oddly mathematical score to deepen the impact of the emotional heart-to-hearts. Overall, as a study of ego and rivalry, Rush is a crackling triumph one could enjoy again and again. It finds Howard delivering on all the pedal-to-the-metal action that you’d expect from a film called Rush, and you simply won’t be able to pry your eyes off all that handsome cinematography. As an A-list crowd pleaser, this one should rocket right to the top of your must-see list.
Hey boys and ghouls,
This is your spooky reminder that the Halloween Horror Movie Spooktacular is almost upon us. On October 1st, things are kicking off with Silent Screams, a silent horror film review series sure to freeze your blood. From there, we will be jumping into another Hammer Horror Series featuring a guest review by Victor De Leon. Once the coffin lid is shut on Hammer, things will be getting seriously witchy around Anti-Film School with the Wicked Witches review series. After the last spell has been cast and the cauldrons have been emptied, I’m letting a handful of seriously creepy guests start haunting the site for a few days. After they share their 5 Favorite Horror Movie Monsters with you, the full moon rises and the Wild Werewolves review series will go straight for your throat. Then, on October 31st, it’s all about you, the readers, as I review the horror film that you picked to have posted on the big day. You may have noticed that I posted the poll last week and voting will remain open until OCTOBER 21st! If you don’t see a film that you’d like reviewed on Halloween, leave a comment or shoot me an email and I’ll add it to the list. So, let’s start seeing some votes!
As always, I’ve been working very hard to make sure there is content for every single day. The Trailer Tuesdays and Thursday will continue through October, as I will be posting monster movie trailers for your enjoyment. In addition, keep your eyes peeled for guest posts from me over at Eva Halloween’s The Year of Halloween, where I will be doing a piece on Television Horror Hosts, and Furious Cinema, where I will be sharing and reviewing some of my all-time favorite horror movie trailers with you.
I’ll leave you will some vintage spook show ads. They just had a way of selling it.
-Theater Management (Steve)
Original artwork created and provided by Eva Halloween
by Steve Habrat
Earlier this summer, news broke out of Cleveland that three girls who had been missing for over a decade had finally been found alive in a home belonging to Aerial Castro. This miraculous discover was a happy ending for the families who were forced to endure years of torment over whether their loved ones were alive or dead. With such chilling news reminding us that the most terrifying monsters of all could be living just next store to us, now is the perfect time for a film like director Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners. Dealing directly with child abduction, Prisoners wastes no time getting under the viewer’s skin and striking an all-too-real chord that sucks the air right out of the theater. With its dreary atmosphere and lack of polish to keep the audience removed from the story, Prisoners becomes a riveting revenge thriller that sidesteps an exploitative side, a trap many well-known revenge thrillers have fall into. Then there is the powerhouse cast (Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Paul Dano, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, and Melissa Leo), a slew of Oscar nominees and winners who comprise the fractured center of this deeply disturbing piece of filmmaking.
Prisoners begins with Keller (played by Hugh Jackman) and Grace (played by Maria Bello) Dover and their two children, young Anna (played by Erin Gerasimovich) and teenage Ralph (played by Dylan Minnette), heading up the street to the home of Franklin (played by Terrence Howard) and Nancy (played by Viola Davis) Birch for Thanksgiving dinner. While the adults sip wine and visit, Anna and Ralph wander around the neighborhood with Joy (played by Kyla Drew Simmons) and Eliza (played by Zoe Borde). The kids soon stumble across a dingy RV that Joy and Anna proceed to start climbing on. After discovering that someone is inside, Ralph and Eliza lead the kids away before the owner can come out and yell at them. Later on, Anna and Joy head back out to the Dover’s so Anna can show Joy her safety whistle. After failing to return, the parents begin frantically searching the neighborhood. Unable to find the girls, the parents alert the police, who immediately put Detective Loki (played by Jake Gyllenhaal) on the case. That evening, Loki discovers the RV that the girls were reportedly playing on. Inside the RV, Loki discovers Alex Jones (played by Paul Dano), who he immediately takes into police custody. After discovering that Alex has the IQ of a 10-year-old and there is no evidence of the girls having been in the RV, Loki releases Alex back with his aunt, Holly Jones (played by Melissa Leo). Enraged and convinced he is guilty, Keller takes the law into his own hands, kidnaps Alex, and begins torturing him in the hopes of finding the whereabouts of the missing girls.
While Prisoners presents itself as a revenge thriller, the film could also pass as a horror film—a horror of personality film to be exact. Early on, Villeneuve suggests that there is something ugly and horrible about to strike in suburbia. There are low rumblings on the soundtrack and he cuts to outside shots of the Birch home with an ugly gray tree cutting right through the center of their lovely home. Something is about to break up this happy family and leave them scarred forever. There is also no sunny comfort, as every exterior shot is filled with billowing snow, low roars of thunder, gray clouds, and sheets of rain smashing against homes and car windows. It’s about as atmospheric as a film can be. When the revenge aspect kicks in, the film doesn’t rely on copious amounts of blood and gore to shock (that isn’t to say the film is bloodless), but rather the heaving animalistic savagery that can erupt when one is consumed by unguided accusation. Villeneuve serves up several shots of rundown apartment hallways complimented by Jackman’s angry shouts and Dano’s terrified whimpers barely audible through the rotting drywall and wood. The yellowing walls and crumbling apartment building where much of the torture takes place mirrors the deterioration of the central character’s morals. The trust in the law is long gone and the only way to get answers is to viciously and relentlessly attack someone who may not even be guilty. Villeneuve and screenwriter Aaron Guzikowski suggest that even through uncertainty, the drive to put a face on our pain and suffering can bring out the worst in us, even those who are claim to be men and women of God.
With the grim tone keeping us frozen in our seats, Villeneuve then allows the performances to emotionally drain us. Jackman completely disappears in the role of Keller, a bleary-eyed man of God who looks like he has been blasted by a wrecking ball. His anger erupts when Dano’s Alex is released in from police custody and when his wife sobs that he needs to protect his family, his revenge plot turns him into grizzled shell of a man who has to keep reminding both God and Alex that he doesn’t want to be unleashing the rage that he is. Howard’s Franklin is a timorous disaster who continuously suggests that torturing Alex is a grave mistake. Despite his protest, he aids in beating the man to a bloody pulp. Davis walks a fine line between objecting and approving of Keller’s approach to the horrific situation. She’s certainly distraught, but she demonstrates a bit more strength than Bello’s crumbling Grace. Piled under a mound of blankets, clutching tissues, and popping prescription meds, Grace finds solace in coma-like slumber. Dano is fragile yet dark as the bespectacled Alex, who enjoys yanking a dog up in the air and dangling it from a leash. Gyllenhaal is magnetic as the tattooed hard-boiled detective simultaneously trying to get to the bottom of the disappearances while unraveling something much bigger than he ever could have imagined. It’s even worse when his superior suggests that maybe he should let the case go. Melissa Leo rounds out the A-list cast as Holly Jones, Alex’s aging aunt with a broken past.
At a towering two and a half hours, Prisoners is surging with ripped-from-the-headlines realism that is never given a million-dollar sheen some films of this sort get. The film seems cold to the touch and the violence, when glimpsed, is absolutely stomach churning. People gasped when we caught a glimpse of Alex’s swollen and beaten-in face, the presentation of a torture device made out of a shower makes you groan in disgust, and a sudden suicide blasts both the characters and the audience across the face with a sledge hammer. Even the film’s child abduction subject matter is darker than the midnight hour and becomes a tough pill to swallow. The climax of the film threatens to become a bit ludicrous, but Guzikowski’s screenplay has every angle covered to make sure the events never plummet into implausibility. Overall, its tough to call if Prisoners will become a darling come awards time, but the film dares to explore humanity at its absolute worst. Not only that, but the performances, especially Jackman’s, demand to be seen and will not easily be forgotten. As an early fall movie season effort, Prisoners disturbs the viewer at the deepest levels imaginable.
by Steve Habrat
When discussing film trilogies, most of the classics feature a third entry that suffers from fatigue in some way, shape, or form. Whether it is from a strained story, waning creativity, or implausible action, by the time the third installment has been reached, it might be time to for the filmmakers and the studio to call it a day. We’ve seen it happen countless times, in classics like the Godfather trilogy, the original Star Wars trilogy, and the Indiana Jones trilogy, all of which include a third entry that is passable entertainment, but lacking when compared to the first two films. Another trilogy that could be added to that list is the Mad Max trilogy, which reached its peak in 1981 with Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. In my humble opinion, Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior surpasses the original Mad Max and has firmly secured a place among the greatest action movies ever made. In 1985, directors George Miller and George Ogilvie decided to bring their post-apocalyptic series to a close with Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, which finds the directing duo ditching the brutality that the first two Mad Max films dolled out and getting in touch with their softer side. Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is deceiving, especially within the first half hour, but when the film reaches the second kid-friendly act, things start to come apart and fast. Plus, who invited Tina Turner to this party?
Set several years after the events of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome picks up with Max Rockatansky (played by Mel Gibson) wandering through the desert wasteland with his vehicle and a camel. Suddenly, Max is attacked by a plane piloted by Jedediah (played by Bruce Spence), who steals all of Max’s belongings with the help of his young son. Left with nothing, Max finally stumbles upon Bartertown, a colony riddled with the scum of the earth. Left with no other alternative, Max offers up his services to the Collector (played by Frank Thring), who believes the Aunty Entity (played by Tina Turner), the head of Bartertown, may have some use for Max’s skills with a weapon. Max meets with Aunty Entity, who puts Max through an audition to see how good of a fighter he really is. Max passes, and Aunty Entity hires him to infiltrate Bartertown’s Underworld and confront Master Blaster, the duo who oversees the pig feces refinery that powers Bartertown. Max’s job is to start a fight with Blaster (played by Paul Larsson), a mindless, hulking brute that protects the pint-sized Master (played by Angelo Rossitto), and kill him in a gladiatorial competition held in the Thunderdome. Upon learning that Blaster is mentally challenged, Max refuses to kill him in the battle, which leads Aunty Entity to banish him from Bartertown. Not long after he is sent out into the desert, Max is rescued by a group of children who believe he is their savior.
With such a cluttered story, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome almost feels like two movies. The first half, which takes place in Bartertown, seems to fit perfectly with the first two Mad Max movies. It has colorful characters and a steam punk attitude that wins you over almost instantly. The detail of Bartertown is amazingly grungy, overcrowded, and dangerous, the type of place you’d expect to see in a world as cutthroat as this. Miller and Ogilvie guide this promising set up to the Thunderdome, where they stage an impressive fight scene that finds Max and Blaster hoping around on cables and swinging clubs and chain saws at each other while the dusty spectators chant, “Two men enter! One man leaves!” Once the fight is over and Max is sent on his way out into his sandy tomb, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome hits a wall. With the introduction of the tribe of children, the film seems to come to a screeching halt as they babble on endlessly about “Captain Walker,” an airplane pilot who promised them that he would lead them to a new civilization. It is here that Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome goes soft on us, only to slightly redeem itself in the final frames by recreating the chase sequence at the end of Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome does feature an interesting progression within its title character, and Gibson does a fantastic job despite the fact that he is asked to melt some of the ice that formed around his heart. Gone is the cynical man looking out for his best interests and in its place is a guy who seems to have bowed to the world in which he is living. He shrugs his shoulder when Jedediah and his son make off with his belongings and he warms to the tribe of children almost instantly. When in Bartertown, Max is hardened enough to fit right in and his former bad-ass self pokes through when he aims his sawed-off double-barrel shot gun at someone or he lunges at Blaster with a chain saw. Then there is Tina Turner, who does a fine enough job with her villainous role, but is way too distracting with her jazzed up soundtrack conflicting with the action. Bruce Spence is great in his returning role as Jedediah, the Gyro-Pilot from Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior. He basically only pops in here and there, but he gets a chance to be a real hero near the end of the film. Angelo Rossitto is scummy as Master, the brain behind the flourishing Bartertown, and Paul Larsson is flexing intimidation as the masked muscle Blaster.
Wearing its PG-13 rating proudly, a good majority of the graphic violence that the previous two installments displayed has vanished. Despite the lack of blood and gore, there are still a bunch of stunts that will hold the attention of action junkies. The final chase features plenty of fireballs, crashed dune buggies, and death-defying stunts aboard a speeding locomotive. The action is undeniably handsome in all its debris-flying glory, but the sequence seems recycled from the second film. The scene in Thunderdome is also pretty epic, as Max and Blaster battle for their lives while hundreds of extras look on through the area’s bars. Just don’t be fooled by the presence of that chain saw. Overall, Miller and Ogilvie’s attempt to extend the scope of this rough and raw series is certainly commendable, and the set direction and costume design, especially in the opening sections, is first-rate. However, the introduction of the children and the sudden shift from merciless action thriller is distractingly spineless and tedious. It’s this kiddie-savior angle that causes Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome to clash with the rest of the series and rank as the worst installment in the Mad Max trilogy.
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome is available on Blu-ray and DVD.
Silent Movie Monsters!
Wicked Witches and Savage Satanists!
Horrifying Hammer Films!
Terrifying New Guests!
Yup, it’s Anti-Film School’s 3rd annual Halloween Horror Movie Spooktacular! Grab and date and huddle up for 31 days of non-stop terror. Starting October 1st, expect reviews of silent horror films, another series of Hammer Studios reviews, a whole week dedicated to witchy horror movies, and a slew of werewolf reviews guaranteed to make you howl at the moon. As if that wasn’t enough terror for you, there are seven guests waiting to crawl out of their graves and scare you silly. Returning guests include award winning film blogger John LaRue of The Droid You’re Looking For, celebrated Canadian horror blogger GoreGirl of GOREGIRL’S DUNGEON, celebrated superhero blogger Bubbawheat of Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights, and Raymond Esposito, the critically-acclaimed author of You and Me against the World and All of Our Foolish Schemes. New guests include film critic Victor De Leon of Vic’s Movie Den and Horrornews.net, horror diva Eva Halloween of The Year of Halloween, and cult-horror blogger/internationally renowned singer-songwriter Monster Girl aka Jo Gabriel of The Last Drive In.
Last but certainly not least, Anti-Film School is allowing readers to vote for the horror movie they want reviewed on Halloween. The poll will be up from now until October 21st so make sure you get your votes in. And remember, if you don’t see a movie you want reviewed, leave a comment in the comment section of the poll or shoot me an email.
And just remember, boys and ghouls, at the drive in, everyone can hear you scream!
-Theater Management (Steve)
Original artwork created by Eva Halloween