Sunday, September 25, 2011
Darren Lynn Bousman's remake of Mother's Day has more in common with Death Weekend, Funny Games, and House on the Edge of the Park than Charles Kaufman's original. It uses the twisted mother/sons relationship of its source and marries it to a home invasion thriller.
As a home invasion thriller, it's graphic and perverted. It kills off central characters and boasts excellent performances from all participants. Rebecca de Mornay, as 'Mother', is chilling in her respective role and much less hysterical than I expected, but no less deviant.
The early 80's Mother's Day is referenced, but the references ('Queenie', for example) are not explained or expanded upon.
As a stand-alone horror flick/thriller, this is a very solid effort that is far more effective than any Saw film. It takes itself seriously and makes no Hollywood compromises. Recommended.
Elokuu (meaning 'August'; 2011) is a mostly successful pictorial essay on a young man's coming of age during a Finnish Summer. The conservative, upper middle class lad engages in some unconventional behavior by ferrying a selfish, mostly irritating bitch half way across the country to her sister's wedding. After she's used him for that, the smitten lad, who only wants to get his end into her, sticks to her like glue until his mission is successful. When it looks like his Summer experience will alter him permanently, the writers recoil and take a conventional route back to where he started. Probably a realistic conclusion, but not terribly interesting as cinema.
The work of cinematographer Joonas Pulkkanen is luminous here. His use of overexposure with diffusion and gentle hand-held compositions lend the film an ethereal, very special mood that adds immeasurably to the subject matter. Performances are strong, there is a stylish erotic element (the panty shot on the bus is exquisite), and the locations are rich and impactful.
Screwed ('96) is a penetrating but sad documentary on Screw magazine publisher Al Goldstein. Made before the magazine shuttered and Goldstein lost his fortune, it paints a colorful picture of a man who spent most of his life fighting for his right to be "obscene. Known for venting regularly on the underhanded shenanigans of his ex-wives on his Midnight Blue cable TV show, and for suing and being sued constantly, he's never less than entertaining and never more than a likable piece of shit kind of guy. He seems to have no friends but plenty of acquaintances and work colleagues, and he possesses a disarming quality that, once again, makes for entertaining subject matter.
The man is refreshingly honest (at least on camera!) He describes how he fired his own father from the magazine, and doesn't refrain from concluding that his mother was "just another dumb cunt" for two-timing his father and expecting her boyfriend to leave her his fortune (he didn't).
There are some fascinating tidbits here about the magazine. The Mayor's Office of New York City allowed it to prosper without censure because it gave the city's hookers a venue to advertise their wares. It faced non-stop obscenity charges outside New York City, however, but Goldstein, bless the fat fuck!, never struck plea deals or made compromises that would see the charges go away. He fought his detractors bravely with his middle finger firmly at the twelve o' clock position.
One of the producers of Screwed was Todd Phillips, the director of the amazing Hated -- GG Allin and the Murder Junkies, as well as Due Date and The Hangover movies. I'm not sure why exactly he got involved with this, but I noticed that Goldstein's second and favorite wife is named Mary Phillips. Perhaps this was Phillips' access to Golstein? Mary is his mother? The film was directed by Alexander Crawford, who was Hated's cinematographer. I guess I'm just trying to put two and two together here.
Screwed is a rough-and-ready little doco that effectively captures an era long gone and a man for a specific season that finally saw a permanent Winter. Sad.