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REPO! The Genetic Opera

22 May


Repo! The Genetic Opera is the latest cult film to emerge from the online streaming market. Released in 2008, writers Darren Smith and Terrance Zdunich’s project comes to life under the direction of Darren Lynn Bousman as a horror/sci-fi opera about a twisted corporation supplying organs parts on credit, but if the customer cannot pay, then a Repo man takes it back. The story is told through a string of Goth songs and sung dialogue about greed, addiction, and death, as well as a series of comic book frames to introduce the main characters. For me, it took fifteen minutes to become interested when Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega) is established as the protagonist. Her solos and duets with her father (Anthony Stewart Head) are great, as well as the talented Sarah Brightman’s signature voice as Blind Mag. The costumes, make-up and dance help hide some poor casting choices. I didn’t join the cult, but I can appreciate an original effort.


Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: C-

Serial Mom

12 May


Serial Mom is a satirical look at the public’s infatuation with true crime. In 1994, John Waters invades the suburbs of Baltimore and arms Beverly Sutphin (Kathleen Turner) with a fire poker and a pair of scissors as she defends herself in court on murder charges. John Waters’s sense of humor is always off-center and he makes fun of mainstream America in a diabolical way that ends up becoming a prophetic tale of contemporary audience’s appetite for reality television and sensational news stories.  Beverly is an ordinary house wife married to Eugene (Sam Waterston) with two teenage children (Ricki Lake and Matthew Lillard). Everything is normal, excepts her list of victims that annoyed her in one way or another. The film is fun, but some of its humor can be lost because audiences are not familiar with Waters’s taste for comedy.  Although, it is one of his most mainstream films it enjoys a cult-like status for its successes and its shortcomings.


Chuck’s Grade: B

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Blue Velvet leaves a bruise

1 May


Blue Velvet is one of those rare films that change the way people understand cinema. Writer and director David Lynch takes audiences into a dark and mysterious place where rational people try to figure out an irrational world. Jeffery Beaumont (Kyle MacLachlan) finds a severed ear in a field and he brings it to the police, but to satisfy his curiosity he attempts to solve the crime on his own. His investigation will lead him to a lounge singer, Dorothy (Isabella Rossellini) who is part of a bizarre world of dangerous characters. Like a great poet, Lynch strikes a nerve, but he never gives audiences enough information to feel comfortable. He makes sure everyone remembers the film like a bruise left after a fight. Its dark blue color serves as a reminder of the struggle, but also as a rite of passage to something much greater.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B+

The Evil Dead (1981) has haunted me for thirty years

3 Apr


I will never forget my father allowing me to watch The Evil Dead when I was twelve years old. He warned me, but I insisted I was old enough. He popped the VHS rental into the machine and I have never been so freaked out in my life. By the time the demon girl begins laughing on her knees in the kitchen I was done and could not watch anymore. For its time, it was one of the scariest movies ever. Today, it still gives me the chills, but the make up and chasing camera does not have the same impact it once did. Director Sam Raimi did more with less and succeeded on so many levels that The Evil Dead films have all become cult classics. Bruce Campbell’s odd charisma and unique style of camp separates this movie from the other horror knock offs. He and Raimi created a low-budget masterpiece that has haunted me for thirty years.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B+

Dark City is out of this world

31 Mar


In 1998, I remember Roger Ebert exclaiming to Gene Siskel that Dark City was one of the best films he had ever seen ever. I was more shocked than Siskel when Roger gave such a definitive statement. My interest was aroused and I immediately sought out this neo-noir sci-fi film mentioned in the same breath as Metropolis. Since then, I have probably watched Dark City twenty times and still have not grown tired of this stylistic thriller, even though I know the film’s juicy secret it continues to entertain my imagination. Rarely, do films have this affect on me, but director Alex Proyas creates the right balance of style and substance that keeps the film interesting and something I would recommend to others. Rufus Sewell’s unfamiliar face helps Dark City keep its authenticity while Hurt, Sutherland, and Connelly provide credence. There are many memorable moments, but the Strangers and their purpose for being there is what pulls audiences into their world.


Chuck’s Grade: A

Adam’s Grade: B

Belly lives up to Hype’s vision

20 Mar


Belly is one of the worst titles of all time for a contemporary urban gangster film featuring some of the music industries most popular talent from the 1990s.  Established music-video director Hype Williams makes his feature film debut with a challenging script about a pair of life-long friends attempting to break into the heroin drug trade.  Rappers DMX (Tommy)  and NAS (Sincere) make a deal with a ruthless shotta named Ox ( Louie Rankin). Tommy and Sincere are complete opposites. Their ying and yang relationship concerning right from wrong comes to a head when the police break up their operations and force Tommy to go on the run and for Sincere to follow his heart. Williams does not make an irresponsible film that simply glorifies this violent lifestyle. He provides options for his characters who essentially are attempting to find their meaning and purpose in life. Although,  their choices are extreme, the message is loud and clear.


Chuck’s Grade: B-

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut fills in the holes

22 Feb


I am torn between the theatrical release and the director’s cut of Donnie Darko. The theatrical version left me perplexed and wondering what just happened.  Richard Kelly’s updated version fills in many of the holes that made the original such an off the wall cool movie. Both versions are good, but I like the director’s cut a little better because it allows me to fully appreciate the intricacies of the plot and the mysterious performance by Jake Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko). The main addition to the script is the explanation of the book, The Philosophy of Time Travel and how the Primary Universe and Tangent Universe are connected by vortexes made of water. Trust me, it does make much more sense and audiences still have to interpret the strange events for themselves, but the theory provides a more solid footing. The film is a contemporary cult classic that has become a transcendent piece of filmmaking and staple for most DVD collections.


Adam’s Grade: B+

Chuck’s Grade: B

Iron Sky crashes like the Hindenburg

18 Jan


Every once in a while a critic wants to give readers a one sentence response to a film, or even, a one-word review. I will refrain from my adolescent urges and say a couple nice things about the movie, and then proceed to the justified censure. Iron Sky is about a bunch of Nazi’s living on the moon for sixty years and preparing for an invasion of Earth. Granted, the idea is original and the film’s trailer is quite intriguing, but the on-screen action and story does not live up to the expectations. The film is tongue and cheek humor that satirizes the United States’s conservative politics, which is fine, but most of the jokes crashes like the Hindenburg. As for the cast, there is no balance between the actors. The supporting roles are over the top obnoxios while the leads are simply not interesting. Everyone looks uncomfortable. Iron Sky is a one-joke film that can’t sustain the humor.


Chuck’s Grade” D+

Adam’s Grade: N/A

Reservoir Dogs understands less is more

22 Dec


Quentin Tarantino’s debut film, Reservoir Dogs is one of those rare films that redefines the way audiences understand cinema. His independent film featuring an all star cast of fresh and seasoned actors opened the door to a film style that would feature unapologetic dialogue, skillful non-linear storytelling, charismatic characters, and unforgettable on-screen violence.

The film opens with a group of men talking about Madonna’s song, “Like a Virgin,” and then abruptly transitions to Mr. Orange (Tim Roth) screaming for his life in the back seat of a getaway car speeding to the hideout.  Mr. Pink (Steve Buscemi) believes the job was a set up and everyone becomes a suspect, but the audience knows who the “rat” is for the majority of the film, which is a genius stroke by Tarantino. Everything from the set and music to Steven Wright’s voice is perfect.

The film is simple, but the execution separates it from other low-budget movies. Tarantino understands less is more.


Adam’s Grade: A

Chuck’s Grade A+

Pump Up The Volume finds its listeners

18 Dec


Pump Up The Volume is a dark comedy about a teenager that starts a pirate radio station from his bedroom.  Mark Hunter aka Hard Harry (Christian Slater) anonymously broadcasts his show over the air to a couple of bored teenagers that find his channel, but as time goes by his programs become more controversial and the show begins to go “viral.” Adults become upset when they realize they are losing “control” of their kids and demand the mysterious dee-jay to be pulled from the air.

Director Allan Moyle reveals the frustrations teenagers experience when they try to express their voice in an adult dominated world that prefers to press the mute button. This film is not as dark, nor as successful as Heathers, but it resonates with young people. It found its footing in the VHS/DVD world and continues to entertain with its sharp wit, intelligent humor, and amazing soundtrack. Pump Up The Volume finds its listeners.


Chuck’s Grade: B+

Adam’s Grade: N/A