Once Upon a Time In Hollywood
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A pleasant, forgettable diversion.
"Toi et Moi" is pretty typical romantic comedy stuff, albeit with a more sophisticated twist. The neurotic, lovelorn characters writhe their way through low-key tortured romances, seeking happiness and fulfillment. Very European, with lots of self-consciously intellectual dialogue that sets it apart from similar American films.
Still, despite the high-falutin conversations of the characters, this is essentially fluff with a little angst and some good acting elevating it slightly above its standard trappings.
"Invasion of the Bee Girls" certainly isn't the worst movie of its kind, but my god does it overstay its welcome. I never really thought a movie about a demented entomologist (Anitra Ford) who, for purposes never really made clear, begins cross-breeding women with bees (in a transformation sequence that's more confusing and exploitative than it is disturbing) so they can light upon the male population of a town comprising equal parts rednecks and sex-crazed scientists to kill them by engaging in the physical act of love.
Talk about coitus interruptus.
As interesting as it is seeing a bunch of scientists turn into sex-mad weirdos out of sheer boredom -- as opposed to most horror movie characters in white lab coats, who are either just asexually insane or upright as a telephone pole -- the premise isn't nearly interesting enough, nor the characters memorable enough, to anchor this in the realm of great B-movie territory.
Establishing the aggressively mundane take on the stranger in a strange land template he has explored throughout his career, Jim Jarmusch's debut "Stranger Than Paradise" deserves its acclaim for opening a new epoch in independent film. Though Jarmusch has made funnier movies - anthology film "Coffee & Cigarettes" chief among them - and better ones - the remarkable "Dead Man" is easily his most realized - "Paradise" has a seminal quality that repays close attention.
Loafer Willie (John Lurie) is paid an unexpected, unwelcome visit from his Hungarian cousin Eva (Eszter Balint), who attempts to understand the strange - but, paradoxically, not entirely foreign - customs of America in an exhaustively banal 10-day stay. Willie's even less ambitious pal Eddie (Richard Edson) is more accommodating but still struck by the vampiric ennui that afflicts both Americans. Looking for excitement a year after Eva leaves for Cleveland, Willie and Eddie head east, failing to find anything new or exciting there, before the trio makes a last-ditch journey to Florida which ends in similar disappointment.
Jarmusch exhibits a great deal of economy, most scenes comprising little more than static dialog exchanges in cramped rooms that abruptly cut to black. Together with Tom DiCillo's stark black and white cinematography, the effect is an almost alien rendering of familiar U.S. locales that mixes into one blank, homogenous melange, with an Ohio lake shore and a Floridian beach both taking on grey, barely inhabitable foreboding that would make Morrissey proud. The impact of seeing a New York City street take on shades of a dystopia more harrowing than any post-apocalyptic movie is both unnerving and humorous; Eva and the viewer both share the strange sensation of visiting a less-than-vibrant America that is less a hollow lie and more an elusive vision.
By the end of "Paradise" you'll have little memory of what the characters talked about and no inclination to believe they've changed. However, this is a movie that redefined what it meant to search for good items, deserting the fast cars, easy women, and cheap thrills of previous cinematic eras and finding characters looking for action but indisposed to find it. A familiar theme adapted, mutated, and even sliced to ribbons by scads of independent pictures since, Jarmusch is quite possibly the only indie icon to avoid making his characters and their situations twee or succumbing to post-modern cool.
For that, he deserves to be commended. Never has a filmmaker made something easy - a sense of excitement, of joie de vivre, no matter how fleeting - look so difficult.
"Leprechaun: In the Hood" isn't the mess its title might indicate. However, it does mark a case of wasted potential, a promising blaxploitation-spoofing beginning giving way to an uninspired, bloody jaunt around Compton. Warwick Davis is clearly having fun, treating the Leprechaun's inane, pseudo-menacing couplets with just enough tongue-in-cheek wit to keep the proceedings from getting too silly (though he never makes the character seem menacing).
A trio of aspiring rappers steals the gold jewelry belonging to record label magnate Mack Daddy (Ice-T in fine, albeit one-dimensional, form) in an effort to buy new gear and make it big. However, Mack's fortune turns out to belong to the malicious leprechaun, who will stop at nothing to get the treasure back. Likewise, the gangster music man is in hot pursuit as well, operating on greed and the knowledge of the bloodshed the unleashed leprechaun can cause.
Needless to say "In the Hood" isn't treated seriously by any of the cast and crew behind this fifth installment in the "Leprechaun" series. From the over-the-top, gory kills (many of which are mysteriously truncated with a fade to black late in the film) to the casual drug use by man and Irish trickster spirit alike to "Lep's" goofy rap video at the end, the diminutive monster obviously isn't supposed to be related to Freddy Krueger.
That said, the comedic tone can only take goodwill toward the movie so far. The aforementioned, essentially censored deaths late in the movie reflect a laziness that makes the flick more and more frustrating as its overlong running time progresses. Little touches like the exaggerated blaxploitation opening (Ice-T in full regalia, poofy afro, platform shoes, and all) and the extended "Boyz n the Hood" by way of "Undercover Brother" first act makes the tedium of Lep's killing spree and the lads' attempts to escape the wrath of the twisted cherub and record producer drag all the more.
There are worse horror movies, straight and satiric, but if only "In the Hood" delivered on the promise of the latter and/or hewed a bit more closely to the former rather than wallowing uneasily in the middle.
While it's true "Faster" is far from a masterpiece, it does represent a refreshing change of pace. In the last 20-odd years, when genre film fanatics-turned-genre filmmakers began crafting their own homages of widely varying quality to the "classics" and grindhouse and B-movies became -- for better or worse -- ground zero for a wide swath of burgeoning professionals, it's rare for filmmakers to adopt the pace of the newly idolized forebears that inspired them without gimmicky callbacks to the style of prior eras. Though "Faster" allows its genetic material to show, there's nothing cheeky, twee, or overly referential in the presentation.
A hard-hitting convict simply called Driver (Dwayne Johnson) is released from prison and immediately sets out on a revenge plot, killing several people, we later learn, involved in a double-cross that sent him first to the hospital with a bullet in his head and later jail and left his brother (Matt Gerald) six feet under. On the case of the brutal, direct killings is Slade Humpheries, a bent cop on the verge of retirement whose questionable former ties with local CIs give him particular insight into the case -- and might compromise his involvement.
Director George Tillman Jr. makes "Faster" a quick, straightforward actioner that doesn't suffer from the usual tangents and blind-alley trips most modern action movies indulge in (think the oeuvre of Michael Bay and pictures produced by Jerry Bruckheimer). Though it lacks the apparent subtext that has endeared some of the better low-budget genre flicks to a variety of contemporary filmmakers, that's not necessarily a bad thing: Tillman comes off more as a craftsman than an artist -- never a bad thing for an action film -- and he makes, tight, efficient use of his actors and setpieces.
"Faster" isn't a thrillride, but it's a perfectly enjoyable trip to a known destination without regrettable detours or frustrating roadblocks along the way.