Film Review : Blue Ruin (2014)

IMDB Score – 7.1
Rotten Tomato Score – 96%

Directed By – Jeremy Saulnier
Starring – Macon Blair, Devin Ratray, Amy Hargreaves, Kevin Kolack, Eve Plumb, and David W. Thompson

A mysterious outsider’s quiet life is turned upside down when he returns to his childhood home to carry out an act of vengeance. Proving himself an amateur assassin, he winds up in a brutal fight to protect his estranged family.

Revenge stories. You thought that they couldn’t do anther one that is both unique and engaging but along comes “Blue Ruin” to prove that it isn’t true. It’s been a pretty great year for film so far and while I didn’t get a chance to see this is a theater, I’m still glad I was able to watch it on DVD. There are some films from three years ago that still haven’t managed a DVD release and thankfully this wasn’t one of them.

The film stars Macon Blair, who is almost a split image of Nathan Lane, as Dwight, a homeless man living out of his car on the shores of Delaware. It’s pretty much inferred off the bat that Dwight is troubled by something as he makes no attempt at panhandling or other form of making money. He doesn’t like people and he likes to keep it that way. A friendly police officer brings Dwight in to inform him that a certain person is getting out of jail and the story slowly begins to unfold from there. I say slowly mostly because I mean just that. Jeremy Saulnier took great care with his breakthrough film, telling the story in a slow burning and delicately paced fashion. We aren’t getting spoon fed details and I had to rewind the film twice to make sure I caught turns in the plot. The film has minimal dialogue as our protagonist Dwight is very soft spoken and a lot of the film takes place with only him.

Saulnier, who started his career as a cinematographer, composes some pretty beautiful shots in a barren Virginian landscape. They way he approached the violence reminded me of another filmmaker, Ben Wheatly, in which what we get isn’t stylized, but rather highly realistic. There were some real shockingly violent moments in this film that just hit harder due to the realism.

Saulnier is a promising filmmaker that should be due some serious budget for his next film. That is the way Hollywood is going now. You have Josh Trank, Gareth Edwards, James Gunn, and Rian Johnson all at the helm of big franchises. It’s only a matter of time before a talent such as Saulnier gets his due and if it is anything like Blue Ruin, I’m going to like it.

4/5

Suggested Viewing – Kill List, Ain’t Them Body Saints, Death Sentence



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Film Review – The Hitcher (1986)

IMDB Score – 7.3
Rotten Tomato Score – 59%

Directed By – Robert Harmon
Starring – Rutger Hauer, C. Thomas Howell, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Jeffrey DeMunn, and John M. Jackson

A young man who escaped the clutches of a murderous hitch-hiker is subsequently stalked, framed for the hitcher’s crimes, and has his life made into hell by the same man he escaped.

Shying away from the theater this week, I’m going to be doing some old fashioned movie watching from home, as I’ve just been in a bad state as it is anyways. It’s funny how one drifts towards the television in times of stress, as if to make realty seem less real by subtracting it with fiction. I won’t get into that, but rather get into a film I’ve been trying to sit down and watch ever since I realized I liked 1980s slasher films. That film is The Hitcher.

I think they made a really bad remake a couple years ago with Sean Bean, who was cast only because he is great at dying. Is that a spoiler? I’m sorry, this film has been out for almost three decades now so you’re going to have to deal with that. The film takes place in the asshole of America, the Midwest, in where a hitchhiker is picked up by Thomas C. Howell, who will now be referred to Ponyboy for the rest of this review. That hitchhiker is played by everybody’s favorite android, Rutger Hauer. Hauer immediately tries to thank Ponyboy for picking him up by trying to snuff him out but is unsuccessful as he accidentally falls out of the car. This sets up the theme of the film; “Is Rutger Hauer a ninja ghost?” The answer is a resounding yes. Somehow, Hauer manages to frame Ponyboy for all his previous and occurring crimes which leaves us watching Ponyboy try to get out of it. He meets Jennifer Jason Leigh along the way and we have a soup of 1980’s trivial pursuit questions to make up this movie.

I actually ended up liking the film. Most of this is because of Rutger Hauer. The man is just a screen menace that only Klaus Kinski can top. You want to scare the shit out of your audience without really doing much? Just stick Rutger Hauer’s face on the screen and let everything else fall into place. The mystery and creepiness he brings to his Hitcher character is worth seeing the movie alone. The camera work was surprisingly good for a 1980s slasher film as the slow pans really helped setting the mood. I never thought Ponyboy was a good actor evidenced by his over the top performance in everything he has ever done including this. His character seems to always choose a place to hide that is not open or is full of people who will die sooner than later, which brings me back to the theme…

Rutger Hauer is a ninja.

He manages to be in every single nook and cranny without anybody ever knowing he is there. He could have worked for MI6 but instead he has chosen to walk the roads in the middle of nowhere and stalk people who are just waiting to die anyway. He gets out of every single situation he is in, manages to wipe out a whole police unit and still manage to make it loo like Ponyboy did it, and also slips body parts into french fries with what I’m only going to assume is the magic of Cthulhu. He’s the real deal.

The film has some pretty great action/thrilling scenes like the gas station getaway, police car shootout, and let’s not forget one of the most gruesome off screen deaths to a likable character ever. Seriously, I can’t believe they were allowed to do that. I was shocked. Overall, it’s a pretty great 80s slasher that is highlighted by the one and only Rutger Hauer. I don’t want french fries at a diner ever again.

3.5/5

Suggested Viewing – Joyride (Just cause), Vacancy, Cellular




Film Review : Grand Piano (2013)

IMDB Score – 5.9
Rotten Tomato Score – 81%
Netflix

Directed By – Eugenio Mira
Starring – Elijah Wood, John Cusack, Kerry Bishé, Tamsin Egerton, Allen Leech, Don McManus, and Alex Winter

Moments before his comeback performance, a concert pianist who suffers from stage fright discovers a note written on his music sheet.

HEY EVERYBODY. FRODO IS PLAYING PIANO. HAHAHAHAHA.

Alright, the horrible comedian inside me had to get that awful joke out of my system before I could continue with this. Honestly, I’m not a big Elijah Wood fan. He was serviceable in the LOTR films as Frodo but hasn’t been able to carry anything as well since. That and I just find his face annoying. I’m sorry Elijah. I’m sure you’re a wonderful person but I find your face annoying. I have the same problem whenever Ben Stiller plays his neurotic Jewish character that nobody likes. I think I just get angry at neurotic sad annoying characters because I see myself in them. I just get angry every time. I generally enjoy the television show Wilfred but Wood’s sad character just gets on my nerves and he plays pretty much the same character in this film. There were other flaws in the film but it sucks when an actor just takes you out of the film from the get go.

Mira actually did a good job with this. His direction was really the only thing keeping this from being a turd. The whole “taking place in one place” film seems very boring because it’s really a one trick pony, but I’ve always thought that it was a great opportunity for great writing. Films like “Exam”, “Cube”, and “The Square” have all been successes in my eyes in how to make an interesting film with only one setting. Grand Piano takes place almost entirely in a theater during one performance. Tom, played by Wood, is a former piano prodigy who has been talked into giving his first performance in five years. Five years earlier he was ridiculed as he goofed playing a piece in front of many admirers. He now has extreme stage fright During his performance he is forced into a game that could end up ending his life or the life of his wife. Guy, this is Phone Booth with a piano. It’s a obvious reference but it really did just fit. Wood however was god as good as Colin Farrell.

There just wasn’t much to do with the premise to avoid falling into stereotypical thriller cliches. The villain, played by Cusack, talked too much. He was in enough control to plan this detail and complex situation but couldn’t keep it together during the execution. It’s a problem a lot of these films have. You cook up a scheme that only a criminal mastermind could come up with but since these types of things rarely happen, the criminal usually fucks up and burns out. There was enough tension in the film though to keep me interested but it really was just silly once the halfway point hit. Also, nobody can play piano like that and use a fucking cellphone.

Overall it was an average thriller with some cool camerawork. Fans of Wood, I know there are many, might like in more than others but for me it was just average.

Suggested Viewing – Exam, Cube, The Square, The Killing Room, Phone Booth

2.5/5