Movie Reviews – February 2009

Festival Selections

A Quiet Little Marriage
Slamdance Film Festival
Director: Mo Perkins
Winner: Grand Jury Award for Best Narrative Feature
One of the amusing aspects of filmmaking is having the pleasure to work with your friends and family and collectively create something beautiful. Director Mo Perkins along with long-time friends Mary Elizabeth Ellis and Cy Carter have most certainly achieved this task with their dramatic comedy, A Quiet Little Marriage, an emotional account of moving forward in life with those you love and being held back by fear. When Olive (Ellis) is ready to take the next step with her husband Dax (Carter) and have a child, a catastrophic rift of deception and betrayal separates the once happy couple. Mary Elizabeth Ellis is absolutely stunning. Her emotional range offers smiles and tears at every corner, and Carter no doubt follows suit. Eric Zimmerman’s cinematography and wonderful use of light and Dave Lux’s simple yet brilliant score add another element of elegance to the artistic palette. - Jimmy Martin

The Cove
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Louie Psihoyos
Winner: U.S. Documentary Audience Award
In the 1960s, Ric O’Barry helped create the family friendly television program, Flipper. Forty years later, he’s one of the most well-known activists spending every waking minute of his life to rescue captivated dolphins. His biggest challenge lies in the remote location of Taiji, Japan, where each year over 23,000 dolphins are horrifically slaughtered in a veiled cove, which no one has ever been allowed to film in…until now. With assistance from every source imaginable, Ric and his covert team risk their lives to reveal the true horrors shrouded in the land of the rising sun. Comparable to last year’s heist documentary on artistic expression, Man on Wire, Psihoyos’ crucial message can ultimately save lives. Did you know that dolphin meat’s mercury levels are considered toxic, and yet are still sold to the citizens of Japan? Not only does the abundance of jaw-dropping content make this film a masterpiece, but the oceanic cinematography is some of the most fascinating imagery to reach the screen in ages. In the course of its run, The Cove will not only save lives, but will change them as well. - Jimmy Martin

Dead Snow (Dod sno)
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Winner: Straight Up Badass Award…from me
Straight out of Norway comes the greatest resurrection to a genre since sliced bread…wait, that doesn’t even make sense…fuck it…Nazi Zombies!!! When eight college medical students, four horny males and four sexy females, decide to spend their Easter vacation in an isolated cabin in the mountains with no phone service, rock music, alcohol, and Twister, no good can ever come of it. When a stranger unexpectedly arrives, seeking brief shelter, he informs the rambunctious bunch of the region’s unnerving connection to World War II. Add a barrage of blood-thirsty zombies from the SS and the result includes splattered gelatinous brains, slit throats, exposed intestines, and gallons upon gallons of blood spilled on the glistening white powder. The level of horror surpasses frightening and veers toward absurd…and that’s the point. One can only pray Hollywood doesn’t sink its whetted teeth into the neck of this foreign beauty and develop another shittastic replica. - Jimmy Martin

Punching the Clown
Slamdance Film Festival
Director: Gregori Viens
Winner: Audience Award for Best Narrative Feature
Musical comedian, Henry Phillips, stars in this twisted comedy as a musical comedian named… Henry Phillips. Ok, so it’s not the most original idea, but this satirical observation of the Hollywood dream and those who control it from behind the curtains is funny enough to pass inspections. As a drifting folk singing comedian roaming the country, Phillips makes his way to Los Angeles, and due to a fortunate mishap, achieves the music career he always dreamed about. However, he soon learns there’s a price to be paid for notoriety and grandeur. The film’s entirety is just filler to get Phillips on stage in front of the camera to perform his ingenious songs. One may question why a live concert/documentary film wasn’t created instead of producing a basic script and forcing someone who is clearly not an actor into a lead role, especially when the majority of the film is of Phillips performing. However, when a man stands before a Christian fundraiser, and sings of crack, hookers, and the apocalypse, you can’t help but smile. - Jimmy Martin

Sundance Film Festival
Director: Lee Daniels
Winner: U.S. Dramatic Audience Award, U.S. Special Jury Prize, U.S. Dramatic Grand Jury Prize
The film adaptation of Sapphire’s Push is a stunning and phenomenal story of racism, poverty, education, growing up, and love told through the heartwrenching tale of Precious Jones, a black teenager in Harlem pregnant by her father for the second time, illiterate, and destined to a miserable fate at the hands of her wretched, jealous mother. Acting performances in this film scream Oscar-caliber from the get go - the tears from the audience were streaming not from sappy melodrama but from real life struggle and desperation. By the end of the film, everyone was on an emotional tipping point, seconds from bursting into tears. When director Lee Daniels took to the stage, he was greeted by an overwhelming standing ovation. I can’t say enough great things about this film - the frustrations are so real and the scenario so hopeless it is as sad as it is frightening. The film effectively paints a picture of a Harlem in which the public schools barely function and children are allowed to go progress without even learning to read. Though the subject of education plays a major role in the film, the core subject of the film is belonging, family, and love at all costs. Anyone who has ever doubted their family stability or upbringing or taken their family for granted should watch this film. It is inspiring beyond words and a testament to human fortitude. - Ryan Powers

Zombie Girl: The Movie
Slamdance Film Festival
Directors: Justin Johnson, Aaron Marshall, Erik Mauck
Winner: Spirit of Slamdance Award
Most adults would shake their heads and roll their eyes after hearing a kid mutter, “I like wannamake movies when I grow up.” In the case of Austin, Texas’ Emily Hagins, she’s already converted the non-believers…at the age of 12. Zombie Girl: The Movie shadows Emily on her two-year journey as she writes, casts, shoots, and directs her first feature-length zombie horror film, Pathogen. Produced with a miniscule budget, the true spirit of independent cinema surfaces with costume hunts at local thrift stores and boom mics taped to painting extension poles. While the unprecedented filmmaking bit is the initial draw, the genuine story comes from the relationship between Emily and her mother, Megan, and the unconditional love one has for their aspiring child. Willing to push herself beyond the limits to ensure Emily’s happiness, Megan assists with anything and everything she can and that includes creating a prosthetic head for decapitations. June Cleaver ain’t got shit on this woman! It’s both beautiful and heartbreaking to watch as Megan foresees her daughter’s independence and is reluctant to let go. Not only have directors Justin Johnson, Aaron Marshall, and Erik Mauck successfully captured the true essence of childhood innocence and family bonding, but they have also documented the undeniable passion of a rising artist. - Jimmy Martin

Web Exclusive Reviews

AAARTFYSTTE:22 Short Noise Videos
Street: This collection of 22 “short noise videos” consists of a meshing of animation, skits, disgust, intrigue, the offensive, and the stupid originally released in 1997 as a video compilation and dubbed “Savant-idiot” by someone who must have watched it. I really felt I should have been at a party in the early 1970s eating acid while this was playing on an oversized screen in the background. I can’t really imagine these were made with the intention of watching them from beginning to end. The mash-up of shorts explores the magnificence of home video editing effects at their peak. Prepare to be amazed by dizzying fades and crossovers, magnified heads and an earsplitting soundtrack. This is why I don’t do drugs. - Ben Trentelman

Gran Torino
Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 01.09
Clint Eastwood proves to be the last man standing from an era characterized by testosterone and tools in this tale about accepting the American melting pot. It’s 2009, but Korean War veteran Walt Kowalski (Eastwood) is still living in the 1950s. He’s racist, thinks his sons are spoiled pussies, and the only beer he drinks is PBR. When Walt catches Thao (Bee Vang), the Hmong teenager from next door, attempting to steal his 1972 Gran Torino, they soon develop the father-son relationship neither ever had...after the initial death threats of course. While the plot is comparable to a dozen other Sundance films, Eastwood dominates the screen as the easily irritated and always grunting old codger who can still kick ass at the ripe age of 78. No one is left out as every racial slur is spewed from Dirty Harry’s mouth, reminding the viewer of how far some individuals have progressed and how others have not. It’s a shockingly sad reality that Eastwood captures flawlessly. The only disappointment comes from the amateur acting of newcomer Vang, who desperately needs to continue his schooling before returning to work. Also, be sure to leave as soon as the credits begin to roll. Eastwood’s rendition of “Gran Torino” (sung in Christian Bale’s Batman voice) will leave an everlasting rotten taste in your mouth. Stick to the acting and directing, Clint. - Jimmy Martin

Bootlegged in Boston 1988
Cruz Del Sur
Street: 01.26
Generally when a DVD has the term “bootlegged” in the title it means it’s a fan-oriented release. In this case watching the live set and mini-biography has initiated interest. According to some web research and a few classic thrash aficionados, the band’s first two records are thrash metal essentials and this official bootlegged live performance showcases the band’s songs from that era. This is thrash metal 'a la 1988 in its full glory. The guy with the perfect ‘80s mullet repeatedly walking in front of the camera is also priceless. For fans of the band, this is a fun tidbit of metal history. For those interested in looking back at classic thrash, look into those first two out of print albums before venturing into this bootlegged show. - Bryer Wharton

Lair of the Minotaur
War Metal Battle Master
Southern Lord Records
Street: 01.20
Armored gladiators battle among stone ruins, crushing skulls and severing limbs, while a band bashes out primitive, Celtic Frost-inspired metal amidst the carnage. Voluptuous harpies emerge from the ruins, gorging themselves on the flesh of the fallen, smearing their naked breasts with warm blood. Sounds like the greatest concept for a metal music video ever, right? Well, before ponying up any cash for this DVD by Chicago's Lair of the Minotaur, take this into account: the armor is foam rubber, the gore is Monty Python-esque, the ruins look like a Los Angeles rest stop, the naked breasts are silicon, the feasting is the worst type of Redemption Video-vamping imaginable, and the metal is clunky, awkward, unoriginal and embarrassing in light of the much better bands it emulates. Though I appeared to hold the minority opinion when Lair of the Minotaur opened for Watain in Salt Lake, I found the band to be tiresome and unconvincing. This video's bonus live footage bolsters my opinion, and no set of blood-smeared tits is going to change it. Metal can do better. Sorry, skip this. - Ben West

Metalocalypse Season 2
Adult Swim/Warner Home Video
Street: 12.02
I enjoyed the first season of Metalocalypse, which was rife with parodies of extreme metal as well as obnoxious and obsessed fans and general spoofs at pop culture. For season two the quality and parodies are still fantastic seeing the Dethklok gang warding off terrorist type fans, imprisoning internet music downloaders, entering the world of fashion and dieting, and rock stars getting clean. However, as a fan I have my gripes. There are moments of pointless jabber between characters meant to be funny that ultimately comes off as annoying. The biggest gripe, however, is there are some massive storyline climaxes all unfortunately going on while the end credits for the episodes are running. Another gripe: why censor the DVD release? Wholesome kiddies don’t watch the show! Adults are the core audience, so why can’t we hear the f-bomb in all its glory on the DVD medium? The only thing uncensored on the DVD release is it’s not so hidden features. Fans if you’re stuck, just look into the eyes of Dethklok and you’ll figure it out. - Bryer Wharton

Static X
Cannibal Killers Live
Warner Brothers
Street: 10.14
From many media aspects Static X is mislabeled as nu-metal, but they’ve always been more industrial metal than anything , comparable to a more aggressive version of Ministry. Cannibal Killers Live is pretty much the ultimate video experience for fans of the band. The footage is professionally done, but done in a way that it gives it that feeling that you’re in the crowd and part of the show. It has some bootleg qualities, but is produced enough to appease audio nitpickers. The set-list is a current “best of,” though it was recorded during the tour for the bands Cannibal album, so obviously there’s a good hunk of songs from said album. Also contained in the package is a “bootlegged” type show from 1997 which is just as entertaining as the main DVD, as well as all the band’s music videos and the concert in CD form. Hopefully this release will lead to a re-issue of the band’s first DVD, Where the Hell Are We and What Day Is It… This Is Static X, which had a very limited run. - Bryer Wharton

Tuya’s Marriage
Music Box Films
Street: 10.28.08
Tuya, a Mongolian sheepherder, is left to provide for the family after her husband was injured digging a well. Finding herself injured as well and unable to provide, Tuya is forced to divorce her husband in order to find a good man with a sturdy back who is willing to provide for her family, including her ex-husband. Tuya’s character is strong and self sufficient, and comes across well as a force not to be reckoned with. If Clint Eastwood were to play a Mongolian sheepherding wife, he would be Tuya. Grit is the way of life in the Mongolian plains in which this film is set. The day-to-day routine and culture of work and necessity are represented very well without feeling monotonous or boring. Tuya’s Marriage is both heavy and lighthearted as it uses very subtle humor to rouse up your emotions enough to really feel the disappointment that life has to offer from time to time. - Ben Trentelman