July 16, 2013

Retroview: Tuff Fest I: Wrap-Up Mega-Post 3

A Retroview Review. 
Luke here, back with a new limited series where I talk about like 60 movies over the next 60 days. Click here for an explanation. Read on for the quick and dirty review!

Okay, so, like 4-5 months late, here is the last of the last two wrap ups for Tuff Fest I:

Red State
Kevin Smith never claimed to be a great film maker, and he has definitely lived up to that expectation. That said, he has made some good movies. His movies generally portray that he knows what he wants to say, but the end results generally come off a little muddled, trite, or cliche. Red State has a simple message, which serves Smith well, because it shines through crystal clear: religious fanatics don't always live in a foreign country. The world Smith presents to us feels real enough to touch, aided by spectacular performances by just about every cast member. It's a brutal, disturbing film, with one heck of an ending. I can't say the message isn't ham-handedly hammered home, but it's evident that this was Smith's intention, so I find myself unable to fault him. Maybe best described as a tonal piece.

More short reviews after the break!
The Hills Have Eyes (1977)
I have to hand it to him, Wes Craven has made some pretty good movies. It is a shame so few of them turned out as well as he hoped. The Hills Have Eyes is a relentlessly brutal movie, clearly inspired by Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I can't really say much more than that it was a slow, shocking dissolution of a modern family by, for all intents and purposes, a family razed to a prehistoric level.

Pet Semetery
Come to think of it, I had also seen this one as well. One of the few Steven King movie adaptations that I felt really strongly worked. The scares feel real, the magic of the movie untainted by time, and I found myself becoming just as wrapped up in it as I had when I saw it as a child. A good classic to revisit if you have a moment, and one you should definitely see if you haven't. It also has one of the most memorable lines in any movie I've ever seen: "sometimes dead is better." Shiver.

House/Hausu (1977)
Not the first installment in the House "series" as mentioned in the last wrap up post, but the Japanese shocker. I actually had seen this one prior to this fest, but it was nice to revisit. This movie was shown during an all day movie fest with some friends, and this one was Justin's pick. He said, as his only lead in, something like "The only thing I can say about this is that, if you haven't seen it, I'm envious of you, because now you get to see it for the first time." When I saw it as a midnight movie over at The Watching Hour, I was blown away, and absolutely bewildered. Because of how unconventional basically everything in it is, I had a hard time focusing on what the actual story was. It didn't help that it was midnight either. I was glad to have another opportunity to see it, because now the movie makes a remote amount of sense. But it was still a trip. And that's really what this movie needs to be. I also feel like you can draw a direct line between this movie and THIS Music Video.

The Black Cauldron
The Disney movie near the top of a lot of "kid's movies that kids shouldn't watch." Now that I've seen it, I have a deeper understanding of why this is generally the case. But I'd argue that, if those lists were serious, they would be wrong. I was just as surprised as the next guy when the antagonist was introduced and it pretty blatently appeared to be the Devil. That's pretty heavy for a kid's movie in general, not taking into consideration that this is a Disney movie we're talking about. Maleficent was a pretty dark antagonist, but the Devil? That said, it was a magical movie, and flowed pretty well, but I can't say that anything more than the desire to see an incredibly dark Disney movie should draw one to this movie.

Blow Out
Did this movie kill John Travolta's career, at least for about 10 years? It's hard to say, but was isn't hard to say is "Blow Out is one of the best movies I've ever seen." Brian De Palma crafted a thriller that embeds in the viewers a certain sense of optimistic hopelessness, leaving the audience in a uniquely troubling state of mind. A plot so intricately weaved, it continuously surprised and further engaged me, rarely if ever letting up. A tragically satisfying tale.

This is the movie everyone is thinking about when they think about the 80's, regardless of whether or not they've actually seen it. It's got the hair, the music, the sex, the violence, the radical kids, the clueless parents, the crazy relatives, space monsters, TV, ... seriously I could go on like this for a while. It's all thrown together in what I can only describe as the most self aware 80's movie I've ever seen. It's so in love with 80's culture that it's hard to believe that it's not a parody or throwback movie made in the last 5 years. It is, concurrently, a movie and a parody of said movie. Slumber party material.

Ip Man
A story based on the life story of the man who trained Bruce Lee, Ip Man follows it's titular character through his trials and tribulations during the start of the Japanese Invasion in 1937. This movie is absolutely heart warming. Yip Man/Ip Man is wonderful, loveable, honorable, fastidious, ferocious, and tenacious. He is also incredibly good at Wing Chun, a form of martial arts. His is a triumphant story, and one of the most satisfying movies I'd seen throughout the fest.

Old Joy
I'm a pretty big Will Oldham fan. So when I saw a movie featuring my man Oldham in my "recommended movies" list on Netflix, I obviously added it to the queue. But the poster isn't very engaging, and the blurb just talked about two guys in the woods. And that's all it really was. I fast-forwarded through all the bits where it was just Will Oldham and the other guy walking. There's a sort of homoerotic part for maybe 10 seconds, but other than that nothing really happens. Can't say I'm surprised, but I was still disappointed.

Foxy Brown
Everyone's heard about this movie so I'll keep this one short and sweet: It's bad ass. Pam Grier is amazing. See it if you haven't already.

Black Girl
Black Girl is a short sad movie by Wolof/Ziguinchor/Casamance/Senegalese author/producer/director Ousmane Sembene, a man considered by many to be the "Father of African film." It's the tale of a young Senegalese woman who is offered an opportunity to live in France, working for a rich French couple. Her nanny job quickly turns into more of an indentured servitude. Winner of the 1966 Prix Jean Vigo, Black Girl is an incredibly depressing movie, highlighting what Sembene saw as the hardly cloaked racism still very much apart of daily life. If anything, a great window in how a Senegalese man saw the world outside in 1966.

Being John Malkovich
I like risky movies, and risky filmmakers. Surreal and uncanny things also interest me. Being John Malkovich was a movie unlike any other when it was released, and really only Charlie Kaufman has continued making movies truly in the same vein. To have such a signature style that it's hard to compare to anyone else's work is one heck of a feat, and this is where it all started. It's rough around the edges, kind of a little long, and not as risky as some of Kaufman's later work, but despite those things there is a charm about BJM that is undeniable. Truly unique, and unlike anything else, even to this day.

Dead Man
I've seen my fair share of Jim Jarmusch movies, so I can say that it was nice to fill in this gap. Like his other movies, it's slowly paced, the action, of what little there is, unfolds over a long period of time. Another tonal piece, Dead Man feels meditative at times, exploring the depths of man's various natures. If you're not a Jarmusch fan, this probably won't sell you on him, but if you have a taste for his offerings, I'd recommend digging in, but at a pace that matches that of the film's action.

Heaven Can Wait (1943)
A cute adaptation of of the play with the same name, I was never really swept away with Heaven Can Wait. There was an incredibly adorable moment in a book store, but, other than that, there wasn't much more to it. It never really felt like there was any real conflict that needed resolving. A well shot movie, featuring good actors, and occasionally clever dialogue, but it feels a little still for my taste. Not the best movie to end my fest on, but I suppose it was nice to end on an unassuming, generally well made classic.

-Luke Hunter James-Erickson
To see all the movies written about so far, click here: Tuff Fest I
Again, for an explanation, click here: Introduction to Tuff Fest I
To suggest movies I should schedule for Get Tuff Fest II, e-mail me: TheeLuke@gmail.com

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