Disturbed or unusual boys and men. Films reviewed: Halloween Kills, Mass, I’m Your Man

Posted in 1970s, Christianity, Death, Family, Germany, Horror, Religion, Romance, Satire, Science Fiction, Sex, Terrorism, Vengeance, violence by CulturalMining.com on October 16, 2021

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM.

Spring Film Festival season continues in October, with ImagineNATIVE showing wonderful indigenous films and art from here and around the world beginning next week; and Toronto After Dark, bringing us the best new horror, sci-fi and action movies, now through Sunday.

This week I’m looking at three new movies — a slasher horror, a serious drama, and a romantic comedy — about disturbed or unusual boys and men.

There’s a dangerous man with a knife and a mask; two sets of parents mourning the death of their boys; and a woman whose perfect date isn’t exactly human.

Halloween Kills

Dir: David Gordon Green

It’s 2018 in Haddonfield, Illinois. This town is notorious for a series of murders beginning in the late 1970s, by Michael Myers, a mysterious man in a white mask. Michael has brutally killed countless people using a sharp knife on Halloween. Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) was a babysitter who survived this attack and the many others that followed. When he reappeared at this year’s Halloween, 40 years later, Laurie was not that surprised. Together with her daughter Karen (Judy Greer) and grand-daughter Allyson (Andi Matichek) they managed to finally defeated this monster by leaving him trapped in a burning house. Or have they? You see, Michael is virtually indestructible, with the mind of a disturbed six-year-old boy combined with the strength of a supernaturally strong man.  Turns out — surprise, surprise, surprise, — Michael is not dead. He’s back and ready to kill more people. So three groups set out to stop him: a posse of costumed competitors at a talent show at a local dive bar; a frenzied mob of vigilantes shouting Trump-like slogans; and Laurie Strode’s own crew. But can anyone defeat Michael Myers?

Halloween Kills is a classic, almost nostalgic, reboot of the 1970s slasher. This one takes up immediately after the 2018 version ends. But unlike that darkly humorous take, this one is more of a campy bloodbath filled with non-stop gruesome violence. It also includes flashbacks to the 70s, introducing a group of characters from that night and where they are now, 40 years later. There’s not much of a plot, per se, more just scene after scene of people being murdered by Michael. Which is not to say I didn’t like it. The music (by John Carpenter) the camerawork, the design and art direction, the whole feel of it provides a wonderful counterpoint to the disgusting blood and guts.  Halloween Kills is a delightfully pointless salute to the original 70s slasher. 

Mass

Wri/Dir: Fran Kranz

An Episcopal church in a small town is preparing for a meeting. It’s not the usual choir practice or AA meetings. This one is different. Four people — two middle-aged married couples — have never met face to face but know a great deal about each other. Their sons went to school together. Gail and Jay (Martha Plimpton, Jason Isaacs) are filled with dread, and seething with anger. They almost can’t bear to enter the building. Linda and Richard (Ann Dowd, Reed Birney) are desperately trying to make a connection and to mend  — not burn — the bridges that bind these two couples. What is it that ties them together? Linda and Richard’s son gunned down a dozen people in his school, including Gail and Jay’s boy, before turning the gun on himself.

Gail and Jay’s lives are ruined and they are still trying to recover from the massacre. But Linda and Richard’s lives are even worse. They can’t publicly mourn the loss of their only child, and are bombarded by hate mail. They are filled with guilt and remorse — is what their son did their fault? Were they bad parents? Did they pay too much attention, or not enough? Through an open and unmoderated discussion, including the showing of photos and telling of stories, the two couples are there to better understand the feelings of the others, and ultimately, to look for forgiveness.   But will they find it at a small table in a spartan church room?

Mass is a highly emotional look at four fragile adults. It’s basically a long, slow-paced conversation, especially between the two mothers. The acting is great, and the topic is supercharged. You have to be in the right frame of mind to appreciate Mass. I found it a bit hard to watch, with zero eye candy or external flashbacks, basically nothing to look at other than their faces. it’s visually dead, except for the raw emotions expressed by the four characters… but if you stick with it, you’ll find the most emotional moments are cleverly inserted, almost incidentally, near the end.

I’m Your Man

Co-Wri/Dir: Maria Schrader

Alma (Maren Eggert) is a single woman, a noted academic at a famous Berlin museum. She specializes in Sumerian cuneiform tablets. She also spends one day a week with her angry father who is suffering from dementia. Her life, and career, are satisfying but uneventful. Until she becomes a reluctant participant in an unusual experiment: to spend three weeks living with and observing, a perfect lover. This man, they say, is handsome, smart and courteous, there to address and satisfy all her wants and needs. But who is this mysterious date? It’s Tom (Dan Stevens). Tom’s hair teeth and body, are always perfect. He never gets angry, and speaks with an oddly alluring foreign accent. And he goes out of his way to make her life more romantic, dropping rose petals in her bubble bath by the light of flickering candles. He likes to dance the Rumba, And he is highly skilled in bed, precisely trained on how to give a woman the ultimate orgasm. But Alma recoils from him, refuses to sleep with him, and treats him like dirt. She gives him a small cot to sleep on in a windowless storage room.

What’s Alma’s problem?

Tom is a robot. And one designed especially for her. But while 82% of German women in her age bracket say they desire candles and rose petals, Alma is not one of them. She hates that stuff. And she feels put upon by this machine. Where is his sense of humour? Where is his spontaneity? Where is his humanity? But the thing is, Tom is not just a machine, he has artificial intelligence. He can learn, adapt and change… as long as she lets him into her life. Can the two of them ever understand each other? Will their relationship become sexual? And is love possible between humans and machines? 

I’m Your Man is a surprisingly romantic story, wonderfully told. It explores concepts of love, reality and what people really look for in a relationship. It’s funny, quirky, tender and surprisingly easy to believe, despite the science-fiction premise. While there are some special effects, most of the stranger stuff is handled by the actors themselves.  I’m Your Man uses a simple idea to explore unexpected places.

This movie really grabbed me — I liked it a lot.

Halloween Kills, Mass, and I’m Your Man all open this weekend in Toronto; check your local listings.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Saturday morning, on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website, culturalmining.com

Summer Adventures. Movies Reviewed: The Mortal Instruments City of Bones, Prince Avalanche

Posted in 1980s, Art, Bullying, comedy, Cultural Mining, Drama, Movies, Science Fiction, Supernatural, Uncategorized, Witches by CulturalMining.com on August 22, 2013

Hi, this is Daniel Garber at the Movies for culturalmining.com and CIUT 89.5 FM, looking at high-brow and low-brow movies, indie, cult, foreign, festival, documentary, genre and mainstream films, helping you see movies with good taste, movies that taste good, and how to tell the difference.

Summer’s coming to an end, but there’s still time to get away. So how about some movies that take you on  journeys to strange places? This week, I’ve got two movies: one’s a supernatural drama about a girl in Manhattan who discovers a hidden world engaged in an epic fight between good and evil;  and a comedy/drama about two guys repairing roads for a summer job in the woods who discover their own hidden neuroses.

TheMortalInstrumentsCityOfBonesThe Mortal Instruments: City of Bones

Dir: Harald Zwart

Clary (Lily Collins) is a typical teenaged girl in New York, who lives with her mom — an artist. No boyfriend, but Simon (Robert Sheehan) is her best friend who will follow her anywhere. (I think he likes her.) And she just happens to live above a tarot card fortune teller. But one day, something happens: she starts doodling a strange runic symbol, over and over. It’s a diamond shape with two horns coming out of the top. She sees it everywhere — what could it mean?

It’s actually a sign: something her mom should have told her City Of Bonesabout before mysteriously disappearing. You see, Clary has special powers – she can see a whole lot of people, monsters and heroes, invisible to us muggles. And one of them, a waifishly pale blond guy named Jace (played by the fortuitously named Jamie Campbell Bower), offers to show her around his world.

He shows her the City of Bones – a catacomb beneath the city – and takes her out to a weird, metal-goth swinger party. (Simon tags along, too.)

City of Bones 3Jace lives in an ancient secret academy filled with stone walls and stained glass. It’s run by a decrepit old guy, and a few brash fighters. They take fencing lessons and cultivate their special powers. They’re an ancient group – sort of like Templar-Knight vampires. Not many of them are still around and they distrust Clary intruding in their sanctuary.

But they all want to fight an evil man named Valentine, and to keep his dark forces at bay. There’s a magical passage inside the building, where the bad guys might come in.

Well, Clary discovers she has the power to turn flat objects 3-D — without any special glasses. And she is somehow connected to a cup –  a cup that everybody wants — which is sort of a non-religious holy grail. Clary has so many questions: What is this cup? Who is Valentine? Where’s her mom? What’s her own role in all this? …and does that Jace-guy think she’s cute?

If you haven’t guessed, this is a very complicated and somewhat confusing movie, based on a City of Bones 2series of books. The genre: supernatural action/romance. Not for everyone, but I actually liked this movie. It’s kind of like the Twilight series, but much easier to take, without all those Jesus-y chastity vows, sparkly skin, and painfully awful music.

Less dreamy mooning, more action, drama, magic… and plot, plot, plot! Lily Collins is good as Clary. And Simon is a real surprise. It’s the guy who plays Nathan on the great UK TV show Misfits! Totally unrecognizable and low-key, he manages to keep his over-the-top persona under wraps, only rarely mugging in pantomime for the camera.

Prince_Avalanche_poster_08Prince Avalanche

Dir: David Gordon Green

Alvin and Lance are semi-brothers-in-law working for the summer as the road crew on a remote highway. They paint stripes and nail posts. It’s the 1980s, so they communicate with the folks back home by writing letters. A phone call means a trip to the nearest town. They camp out at night and do repairs during the day. Alvin (Paul Rudd) is pompous, uptight and bossy.  He wants to learn German. He likes giving lectures (about whatever) to his girlfriend’s brother; he wants to bring some gravity to the tarmac.  Lance (Emile Hirsch) is long-haired and chubby, and talks Prince_Avalance_1like a childish dork. He wants to get laid, but is shy about meeting girls.

They two of them dress like the Super Mario Brothers in baggy blue overalls and hardhats. Alvin even has a bad mustache to go with it. They look like cartoon characters, but their dialogue seems more like Pozzo and Lucky… if Lucky spoke, and was an obnoxious brother in law, not a slave.

As they work their way down the road they meet some people. There’s an old woman picking through the rubble of her former house, looking for a piece of paper. And a boisterous old man – maybe their boss? – who wants to share his rotgut alcohol with them.

Prince_Avalanche_6Prince Avalanche is a movie, but feels more like a minimalist play. The brothers gradually reveal their feelings, confess their fears, air their differences.

[Here’s a dramatic moment… listen:)

Prince Avalanche is one of those movies that waivers between the sublime and the ridiculous. I struggled at the beginning to take it seriously, but by the end I was thinking – hey! this is good, funny, clever, interesting. The movie looks and feels more like a European minimalist art film, than a goofy American comedy. (It turns out it was based on an Icelandic film, which somehow makes sense.)

I know Director David Gordon Green for his stooopid stoner comedies like Pineapple Express and The Babysitter, but after seeing this, I think I have to revisit his comedies – maybe there’s something more to them, too…

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones just opened and Prince Avalanche starts today: check your local listings. Also on now is the Art Gallery of Hamilton film festival – showing an amazing selection of great movies from other festivals. Go to aghfilmfest.com for more info.

This is Daniel Garber at the Movies, each Friday morning on CIUT 89.5 FM and on my website,culturalmining.com

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