Kid–Thing -2013-


Directed by David Zellner. 83 mins.

Worth my time? Meh. (Seen at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre)

I really wanted to like Kid-Thing. The staff at the Cinefamily has been talking it up for what seems like ages, and The Hit List described it being “Like Days of Heaven on paint fumes.” Sign me the fuck up, I thought.

Newcomer Sydney “Wrath of God” Aguirre delivers a bullshit-free performance as a sociopathic Butcher Boyish preteen in the boonies. Some of the cinematography is gorgeous, and the Zellners (brothers David and Nathan) have a keen eye for beauty in the bizarre. The splat of paintballs into cow shit is surprisingly gripping.

The film has its share of great moments resulting from Aguirre’s hell-raising, but it never lives up to it’s potential. The authentic moments of childhood rage hint that Kid-Thing could have been exceptional. In its final form, however, the film is merely peculiar like a David Gordon Green-helmed Napoleon Dynamite.

No, I’m not linking to anything even remotely related to Napoleon Dynamite.

The Zellners (who were in attendance at my screening) called their movie “a fable.” Wait, what? How is this a fable? Aguirre’s character does not change a bit throughout the film, and any moral of the story (if you can call this patchwork of scenes a story) was totally lost on me unless the lesson is, “Death trumps boredom.”

Still, I can imagine a small but potent audience who will adore Kid-Thing. If you like quirky, unsettling, meandering tales such as Dogtooth, check this one out. Anyone else who wants to watch a story about angry hick kids should instead watch Jeff Nichols’ excellent Mud from earlier this year.

(Seen and written on 2013-09-20)

Class of 1984 -1982-


Directed by Mark Lester. 98 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at the Cinefamily at the Silent Movie Theatre)

If a hybrid of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, Mad Max, and Straw Dogs sounds as fun to you as it does to me, Class of 1984 will be right up your alley – I should have seen this film years ago. This “cautionary tale” of dystopian delinquency grabbed me the moment I heard the first note of its title track (courtesy of Alice Cooper).

The movie somehow succeeds in taking itself seriously despite the fact that it’s essentially a comic book. Leading man Perry King is surprisingly sympathetic as an idealistic teacher who defends himself and his wife with extreme violence once he’s pushed past his breaking point, á la Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs. Unlike Rod Lurie’s 2011 remake of the 1971 Sam Peckinpah classic, director Mark Lester realizes that the character’s transformation is tragic, not triumphant. The result is a far more compelling story than most other films of this vein. Timothy Van Patten (now a successful television producer and director) is lots of fun as the psychotic leader of a school gang, and seeing Roddy “Cornelius” McDowall holding his class at gunpoint is worth the price of admission.

Plus you’re probably gonna pirate this movie anyway, so you have no excuse not to see it.

Class of 1984 is one of the better right-wing films I’ve seen in awhile. With a few exceptions such as Fight Club and Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, left-wing entertainment is more nuanced and usually more engaging than the transparent, preachy crap that comes from the right these days. If you’ve ever seen Fireproof or the Atlas Shrugged films (Objectivists tend not to describe themselves as right-wing, but they’re close enough for the purposes of this example), you know what I’m talking about. It’s always a case of “Beat viewers over the head with ideology first, entertain later or never.”

Class of 1984 succeeds as a political film (I bet any Reaganites who saw it loved it) because it doesn’t require you to accept (I don’t) or even notice its ideology. But if protecting the innocent from cultural deviance and a revolving door justice system is your bread and butter, you’ll appreciate its angry statement on society.

If Frank Miller doesn’t own a copy of this movie, his people should give me a jingle. I’ll buy him a DVD.

Aside: Oh crap, I forgot to talk about the hilarity of seeing a pudgy, bowl-cut Michael J. Fox getting stabbed in the kidney!

(Seen on 2013-09-17, written on 2013-09-18)

Friday the 13th Part 2 -1981-


Directed by Steve Miner. 87 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater, Santa Monica)

Alright, this is more like it. I suppose Paramount was more concerned with delivering a quality product this time around, and as a result, the talent on both sides of the camera actually seem to give a shit. The lighting is light-years beyond that of its predecessor, and the cinematography is much more fluid, containing some pretty complicated tracking shots.

The new batch of counselors (or victims-to-be, depending on how you look at it) are much more interesting than the old gang, thanks largely in part to the screenplay by Ron Kurz. There’s a lot more intentional humor in the screen direction and dialogue, and the Final Girl (Amy Steel) is far less helpless than most in that category. Plus, Jason has surprisingly fly boots.

(Seen on 2013-09-13, written on 2013-09-14)

Friday the 13th -1980-


Directed by Sean S. Cunningham. 94 mins.

Worth my time? Yes, but it wouldn’t have been if I had seen it under less festive circumstances. (Seen at the American Cinematheque’s Aero Theater, Santa Monica)

Yesterday the Aero Theater hosted a Friday the 13th mini-marathon (showing the first four films in the series). I only stayed for the first two – even I have a slasher saturation (slasheration?) point – but it was a fun time. The marathon was preceded by a costume contest (there were some insanely professional get-ups), and there was a fun interview with Robbie Morgan (who played Annie, the first non-flashback murder in the series).

Sadly, that was about all the fun that was to be had from Friday the 13th. Aside from the novelty of seeing 22 year-old Kevin Bacon in a Speedo, the film is poorly show and boring, especially compared to its precursors such as Black Christmas and Halloween. You may have thought that a film coming from Paramount would have been held up to higher standards, and you would be wrong.

The movie takes itself far too seriously (aside from the unintentional laughs provided by Betsy Palmer as the murderous Pamela Voorhees). Luckily, Part 2 was a solid step in the right direction.

Aside: Why didn’t Mrs. Voorhees have any blood on her sweater? She must have changed clothes.

(Seen on 2013-09-13, written on 2013-09-14)

The Servant -1963-


Directed by Joseph Losey. 116 mins.

Worth my time? Yes. (Seen at Laemmle’s Royal Theater, West LA)

Holy smokes, was this movie all sorts of tense, tingly fun. The Servant is the first Losey film I’ve seen – I was vaguely aware of the guy, but he’s been under a lot of peoples’ radars since he was blacklisted some fifty-odd years ago. Now I gotta make up for lost time and gobble up the rest of his filmography.

The Servant is hearty stew of genres – it’s written like a melodrama (Harold Pinter is responsible for the wonderfully misanthropic screenplay), paced like a thriller, and shot like a noir (Losey did lots of noirs during the American part of his career, including an English-language re-make of Fritz Lang’s M). The entire cast has an amazing chemistry between them – maybe the purest concoction of sex and passive aggression I’ve ever seen. The titular Servant (Dirk Bogarde) is a world-class schemer, and I couldn’t look away as he played the other characters (Sarah Miles, Wendy Craig, James Fox) like old accordions.

Well, I probably looked away once or twice. The film could stand to be fifteen minutes shorter, but it didn’t damper the viewing experience much.

Aside: In the best possible way, this is the gayest film I’ve seen all year.

(Seen on 2013-09-01, written on 2013-09-04)