Truffle Shuffle Tuesday Vol.2 – Frontier(s), Fantastic 4 and 2 HBO Movies Reviewed

( 2008 )
This French-made blood bath follows the familiar (and reliable) Texas Chainsaw Massacre template. On the lam after a heist during a riot sparked by a controversial Franco-election, four young criminals (one a pregnant, guilt-crippled girl) find their way to a peaceful-seeming (seeming!) inn, en route to Amsterdam. Unfortunately for them the place is thick with cannibal Nazis living in a bizarre familial cult. Within the first half hour the gore-splattered survival horror begins and there’s little time to breath on the way to the ultra-violent, though thought-provoking finale. Frontier(s) scores big with beautifully cold earthy cinematography, effectively inducing dread. There are plenty of visceral thrills and enough smart surprising moments, great charachterization and solid performances to make this a stand-out not to be dismissed as the kind of torture-porn crap pushed by Rob Zombie and Eli Roth.

This made-for-HBO doc offers a fairly nonjudgemental look at the genius/perv director’s 1978 conviction for the statutory rape of a 13 year old girl and the dramatic life that led up to it. Some time is spent on his devastation over the murder of his wife, Sharon Tate, at the hands of Charles Manson’s “family” — but the primary focus is the rape case, the difference between European and American reactions to that case and the unbelievable legal clusterfuck that forced him to flee the country soon after. (He’s never returned to America and would be immediately arrested if he did). There’s some nice use of soundtrack music from his biggest hit, Rosmary’s Baby, and judiciously doled out clips of his oveure. There are several illuminating clips from  old interviews as well as new interviews with the people that knew him best (not to mention, a few moments spent with the rape victim today). It’s all surprisingly less skeezy than it sounds and probably one of the best bio-docs I’ve seen, on par with Crumb.

RECOUNT ( 2008 )
This made-for-HBO movie is a nicely-balanced all-star take on the weeks directly following the 2000 Bush/Gore election fiasco. No matter whose side you’re on, you have to appreciate the straightforward stick-to-the-facts historically-accurate screenplay. Kevin Spacey is typically (almost mundanely) good as Gore strategist, Ron Klain and I enjoy Tom Wilkinson (as Bush’s) a little more every time he pops up in a movie. The top performance, though, is from a practically unrecognizable Laura Dern as flighty, clueless, self-absorbed Florida Secretary of State, Katherine Harris. Things start to drag a little in middle and unfortunately we know how it ends but for a political movie, it’s more entertaining than most.

Jessica Alba can’t act, Dr. Doom is about as menacing as a the Tin Man, the sfx are unimpressive and The Thing looks a lot like a dried-up clump of crumbling crap, but FF still has a few things going for it. Probably the most kid-ready of the Marvel Comics adaptations, this story delivers the genesis tale of the super team (in space…atomic mutation from a…space thingy…or something) made up of The Thing (Michael Chiklis), Alba’s Invisible Woman, Ioan Gruffudd as Mr. Fantastic and Chris Evans as the Human Torch. There’s a little too much bitchy in-fighting and not enough clobberin’ time, but there’s something sincere about the way the story rolls that’s reminicent of Chris Reeves’ Superman. It’s a fun afternoon diversion that won’t stick with you for very long after the credits roll. **

4: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (aka Fantastic Four 2) (2007)
Although I don’t remember anyone clammoring for a sequel, FF2 delivers what the original didn’t — particularly action and better effects. The mysterious Silver Surfer has arrived on earth to ultimately destroy it with his matter-mutating powers. But it turns out he’s really not a bad guy, and with a voice like Larry Fishburne’s and that sleek silvery surf board how could you hate him? Dr. Doom returns as nothing more than a minor plot device. Characters, having been clumsily and broadly defined in the original seem to make a little more sense this time and the authentic comic-booky writing keeps things light and fun. Mr. Fantastic and the Invisible Woman’s wedding is a central focus, filling the comic book movie’s mandatory-seeming love-is-hard-when-you’re-a-superhero-story quota. As forgettable as the original but far more fun and a solid entry into Marvel’s impressive roster of superhero movies.**1/2

~ by Number5ive on June 18, 2008.

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