June 6, 2010


Movie Reviews: Splice, The Crazies, and more

Splice: The trailer really doesn't do the movie any justice, there is a lot more to it than just horror. There are a few frightening moments but its really a multi-layered film that examines many things: interpersonal relationships, ethics of science (for and against genetic manipulation) the motivations of corporations. The characters are much more complex than you might expect, with weaknesses and faults. Splice pulls on lots of different emotional strings without coming across as formulaic. Before Splice, the films director Vincenzo Natali was behind the cult hit Cube, another film that shows he has a nack for focusing on interpersonal aspects of a film.

The movie really benefits from feeling free from the rules that usually define a big movie production – the rules that are imposed by big studios that are more concerned about financial returns. Judging by the size of the audience I think they may need to rethink their rules. Last Summer the film that blew away expectations was District 9, which was born out of the ashes of a large studio's interest to make a film based on the Halo video game franchise but when that idea came to an end, the funds raised for it allowed Peter Jackson to let his rookie director Blomkamp make a movie of his own design, without creative control from behind the scenes coming from the movie studio.

The Crazies: I've been waiting for the next best zombie film ever since the 2004 remake of Dawn of the Dead. The Crazies is that film, and justifiably so since it is itself a remake of another Romero film. This film is a good companion film to the 2004 remake of DotD. In fact, the opening of the film, using a Johnny Cash song (We'll Meet Again), may well be an homage to the 2004 remake of DotD which featured a Cash song over the opening credits (The Man Comes Around). The scenario in this story is slightly different, a biological outbreak (like in 28 Days Later, another great survival horror film) instead of being a zombie outbreak, and its setting is rural instead of urban. One of the best moments of the film I thought came when David (Timothy Olyphant) sensing that they had lost all contact with the outside world (cell phone, internet, etc.) telling his deputy “We're in trouble.” One strength of The Crazies is in the way its makes you feel like you are experiencing the story with the main characters.

Iron Man 2: A pretty good follow up to the first Iron Man. Its good that the same actors and creative team that brought the original was behind this one, with the exception of Don Cheadle taking over the sidekick role. I hope that the forthcoming Avengers is a worth sequel/spin-off.

Green Zone: an action film “based” on actual events that happened around the time of the invasion of Iraq as reported by the Baghdad borough chief of the Washington Post in his coverage. As an action film it was exciting although nowhere near as much as the Bourne Trilogy. And although it likely expresses the same sentiments as its source materials, I wonder how seriously anyone would take a film that is politically relevant but uses the action-film genre as a medium.

Greenberg: the most recent film by Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, Margot at the Wedding) focuses on a man struggling with life. Greenberg, the main character, is temporarily living in LA housesitting for his brother who is spending the summer in Europe. While there what he is mostly doing is struggling with inner demons in the form of deep insecurities about his self. Greenberg as with all of Baumbach's films focuses on tragically broken lives. It can often be difficult to watch, but there is an honesty to his struggle, and the slightest amount of redemption thought his experience.