Horns (2013) Review

Horns (2013)

Directed by Alexandre Aja

Based on Horns by Joe Hill

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Max Minghella, Joe Anderson, Juno Temple, Kelli Garner, James Remar, Kathleen Quinlan, Heather Graham, David Morse, Sabrina Carpenter

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
Horns is an American dark fantasy horror-comedy film directed by Alexandre Aja, loosely based on Joe Hill’s novel of the same name. Daniel Radcliffe stars as a man who is accused of raping and murdering his girlfriend (Juno Temple) and uses his newly discovered paranormal abilities to uncover the real killer.

My Opinion:

Okay, so I watched this movie after reading the book because I of course wanted to see how they’d adapt such a weird story (you can read my review of the book HERE). I know that movies are rarely as good as the books but they did a pretty poor job with this adaptation. It started out pretty good, too, so it was disappointing that it fell apart.

Yes, we have Harry Potter playing Ig, a guy who grows Devil horns. And has sex! NO! Do NOT have sex, Daniel Radcliffe! That’s just really disturbing – you’re a little kid. And Juno Temple… is it just me or is that girl annoying? I suppose she wasn’t too bad in this, though, as she was kind of how I pictured Merrin. She’s famous because her dad (Julien Temple) is famous. Can we just talk about his music documentary/music video work instead? That’s far more interesting than Horns. My husband told me he likes it more when I go off on a tangent, like when I “reviewed” Primer and ended up talking about Weebles. Really?? Surely people find that annoying! Just Google Julien Temple if you don’t know him – besides things like his Sex Pistols documentaries, he directed far more music videos than I realized (videos for Judas Priest, The Rolling Stones, Neil Young, Depeche Mode, etc etc, and that David Bowie movie Absolute Beginners). Oh, and check out my chat with Hard Ticket To Home Video’s Brian of Billy Idol’s White Wedding video HERE (which wasn’t directed by Temple – I’m just whoring my Music Video Friday posts that only I & two other bloggers like). 😉

Right! Horns. I think the movie captured the love story between Ig & Merrin pretty well, which was good as that’s what I liked the most about the book. But it did a terrible job with all the other characters. As always, I won’t spoil the story but the two other biggest characters are probably Ig’s brother Terry & Ig’s friend Lee (who couldn’t look more different from how he’s described in the book). Their stories were changed quite a bit and they got no character development at all in the movie. I hated the changes as they didn’t really seem like the type that were necessary to save on time or whatever (I let some changes slide as I know it’s hard to squeeze a long book into a short movie). For those seeing the movie only, I think you’ve totally missed out on most of the characters’ motivations for doing the things they did.

And Heather Graham couldn’t have felt more out of place! They changed & made her role far bigger than it was in the book and I’m afraid to say that she came across as quite desperate in this & her acting was just embarrassing. It makes me sad to say that – I kind of like Heather Graham. I’m assuming she was told to act in that way, though, as Wikipedia oddly describes Horns as a horror comedy, which I don’t think is at all accurate. There are a couple small dark comedy moments but don’t watch it expecting a dark comedy – it’s a supernatural murder mystery horror. It’s a very unique & original story so I suppose that’s just Hollywood trying to give it a simple classification.

Despite my complaints, I did like this movie okay. I’m going to be picky as I liked the book but, trying to look at it as someone who hasn’t read the book would, I think it’s a decent enough film. It does try a little too hard to be “cool” but I think that’s pretty common for movies aimed at twentysomethings. Yes, like Joe Hill’s books are very much aimed at a younger generation than those older fans of his dad’s (Stephen King) work, this movie very obviously knows its specific target audience. Which is fine – I’m sure a lot of now-adults who grew up with Harry Potter love this movie. I think Daniel Radcliffe will have been chosen for this very reason & he’s much better than I was expecting – I ended up having no issues with him playing Ig (I read on IMDB that Shia LaBeouf was originally going to play Ig. Yuck – can you imagine?! That would’ve been a huge mistake!). Also, the movie’s soundtrack is pretty good. It was out of place half the time & far too obvious sometimes (such as using Personal Jesus) but I’m not going to complain at a soundtrack including David Bowie even though the song Heroes worked much better in The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (plus David Bowie is currently the “artist you must include in your soundtrack to make your movie seem cool“).

Summary:

Horns is a decent enough horror movie if you’re looking for a different sort of story that you’ve not seen in a thousand other films (that’s usually my biggest complaint with horror movies such as Mama). Don’t get the wrong idea when I say it’s aimed at twentysomethings who grew up with Harry Potter – it’s a dark film & very much a “horror”. I was surprised when looking up the director’s other work (The Hills Have Eyes remake, Mirrors, Piranha 3D(!), and the ultra-violent Switchblade Romance which has been on my list to watch for the blog every October but I still haven’t because I’m a wuss). Well, Horns is less extreme than any of those. I far preferred the book, of course, but at least they got the central love story right in the movie even if they made a mess of everything else. I’d actually recommend only watching the movie with this one if you’re not much of a book person – you’ll enjoy the movie more that way. If you are a book person, definitely read the book first.

My Rating: 6.5/10

Here’s a Julien Temple video! This song is stuck in my head now. Judas Priest – Breaking The Law:

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Drugstore Cowboy, At Close Range & Slacker Movie Reviews

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Here are three more mini-reviews of movies I don’t have enough to say about to fill a full review for each! Sound exciting? Two were okay but one totally sucked…

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Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

Directed by Gus Van Sant & Based on Drugstore Cowboy by James Fogle

Starring: Matt Dillon, Kelly Lynch, James Remar, James LeGros, Heather Graham, William Burroughs

My Opinion:

It seems like I’ve watched quite a few movies about people who are addicted to drugs but they’re never exactly favorites of mine. It’s certainly something I can’t relate to as I’m afraid I’m going to OD if I take one little wussy aspirin for a headache. The last drug movie I watched was The Basketball Diaries, which was also based on the real-life drug addiction of the story’s author. That movie was a little disappointing but had a good performance from Leonardo DiCaprio. I maybe liked it slightly more than this but Drugstore Cowboy is probably a bit better as a film.

The problem with these drug movies is that, even though they show the terrible effects that drugs have on people, I think they still manage to glamorize drug addiction to a certain degree. Diaries is more guilty of that than Cowboy – I think Drugstore Cowboy tells a more straightforward story without trying to appear too “cool”. However, it also makes for a slightly more boring film.

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I’ve never really liked Matt Dillon with his gormless face & Bert from Sesame Street eyebrows but I guess he’s fine in this (he’s just not on a Leonardo DiCaprio level acting-wise). Kelly Lynch was pretty good as Dillon’s bossy, horny girlfriend (or I think she may have been his wife?). I haven’t really seen Lynch in many films but all I ever think of is how Bill Murray calls her husband to tell him that Kelly is having sex with Patrick Swayze anytime Road House is playing on TV (I really need to watch that movie – it looks so gloriously bad). I was surprised to see a very young Heather Graham looking all cute like she did in License To Drive. That’s the thing with these Hollywood drug movies – you’d think only really attractive people become addicted to drugs.

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Overall, I liked Drugstore Cowboy okay but I don’t think it’s going to change anyone’s life. It’s not as hard-hitting as some of the other drug addiction films that are out there but it does a decent job telling the story of a group of people who rob drugstores to feed their addiction and what a pointless existence they’re living.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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At Close Range (1986)

Directed by James Foley

Starring: Sean Penn, Christopher Walken, Mary Stuart Masterson, Crispin Glover, Tracey Walter, Christopher Penn, Kiefer Sutherland

My Opinion:

At Close Range is probably the best movie of these three but I really had no idea how mean and violent it was going to be. All I really knew of the movie was what I saw in the clips of that Madonna video Live To Tell. It’s an Eighties movie that I missed out on at the time but always kind of wanted to see (probably because of that video). When it appeared on Netflix, I decided to watch it after being reminded that Mary Stuart Masterson is in it (and Crispin Glover! he’s his usual weird, Crispin Glover self in this). Oh yeah – and Christopher Penn! I’ve always liked him more than grumpy Sean.

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I didn’t know that this movie was based on the true story of a notorious crime family in Pennsylvania in the 1960s & 70s. There’s very little information on the real life criminals on Wikipedia so I can’t say how accurate the movie is but it’s a very gritty film and Walken is truly evil in this role. It was strange to see Walken playing a bad guy with absolutely no over-the-top acting or sick sense of humor like in movies such as Things To Do In Denver When You’re Dead. I absolutely HATED this guy (as you’re meant to) so I guess you can say that Walken played the role really well despite a very distracting hairstyle.

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At Close Range follows Sean Penn’s character and his estranged criminal father, played by Walken, who suddenly appears back in his son’s life and involves him in the family’s crime ring with very tragic consequences. Looking up the true story, I saw just how young these kids were when all this occurred (Penn’s character, his brother, his friends & his 15-year-old girlfriend) and I found it quite heartbreaking to see how this group of adult criminals were able to so easily use these young kids, some of them their own family, with absolutely no remorse.

At Close Range was a much darker movie than I was expecting for some reason (maybe because of that Madonna video) but I suppose it was a pretty good film. I’m just not normally a fan of true crime films as I find them too upsetting and the treatment of Penn’s & Masterson’s characters was especially difficult to watch. I’d recommend this if it sounds like your type of movie but be prepared to hate Walken’s character and to possibly feel a little angry when it finishes.

My Rating: 6.5/10

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Slacker (1991)

Directed & Written by Richard Linklater

Starring: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Mark James, Stella Weir, John Slate, Louis Mackey, Teresa Taylor

My Opinion:

I love Richard Linklater. I really do. Dazed And Confused is a favorite movie of mine and I really liked Boyhood even though a lot of people hated it. Bernie was pretty damn good as well, I love the relationship in the Before films, and School Of Rock is a huge guilty pleasure of mine (although I shouldn’t feel guilty about it – it’s great! Jack Black haters be GONE!). So…. I decided it was about time I check out Linklater’s feature length debut Slacker.

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Slacker has a high IMDB rating for an older film (7.1/10). I knew it was loads of “talking” like most of his films, which I don’t mind. Dazed And Confused and the Before films are loads of talking. The difference is that those films have characters we give a shit about and a f*%king STORY instead of a bunch of random idiots telling stupid, boring stories that have absolutely no connection to each other.

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I’m sorry to anyone who is a fan of this one but I just do NOT get the appeal. It would be okay if the pointless talking was funny and entertaining like it was in Dazed And Confused but none of it is funny or entertaining. Scratch that – the chick in the photo above (and the poster) is mildly (emphasis on mildly) entertaining as she discusses buying a Madonna pap smear (hey – a Madonna connection to my previous review!). I guess that’s why that character ended up on the poster as she’s the only one I can even remember other than Linklater himself, who starts off the string of pointless talking in the very first scene.

I guess the one good thing about Slacker is that it was the start of Linklater’s career. I’m still a fan of his as he went on to make much (much!) better films than this one but Slacker is a huge waste of time for anyone who isn’t a slacker and has better things to do with their time.

My Rating: 4.5/10

The Warriors (1979) Review

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The Warriors (1979)

Directed by Walter Hill

Based on The Warriors by Sol Yurick

Starring: Michael Beck, James Remar, Dorsey Wright, Brian Tyler, David Harris, Tom McKitterick, Thomas G Waites, Terry Michos, Marcelino Sánchez, Deborah Van Valkenburgh, Roger Hill, David Patrick Kelly, Lynne Thigpen, Ginny Ortiz, Mercedes Ruehl, John Snyder, Edward Sewer, Joel Weiss, Paul Greco, Apache Ramos

Running time: 93 minutes

Plot Synopsis:
Cyrus, leader of the biggest gang in New York City (The Gramercy Riffs), calls together representatives from all the gangs in the city in order to call a truce and take over the city together. When Cyrus is shot & killed at the meeting, a gang from Coney Island called The Warriors is falsely accused. The Warriors must then fight their way through the city back to their home turf with every gang now after them for revenge over the death of Cyrus.

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My Opinion:

What’s with all these boy movies I’ve been watching lately? And I’ve just watched Hobo With A Shotgun. I really need a girly movie fix.

Anyway! My good friend Eric of The IPC recently dragged out an old review of his for one of his favorite movies EVER, The Warriors (his review is HERE). I’m old, like Eric, but had never seen it for some reason. So he (and Mr Mojo’s Work) went a bit mental & forced me to watch it Clockwork-Orange-style. But Eric isn’t really one to talk as he’s never even seen This Is Spinal Tap.

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I wasn’t sure about this as Eric likes a lot of dodgy horror movies that frighten me but I’m glad I decided to give it a chance. The Warriors is actually pretty damn great. If I didn’t like it, I promise I wouldn’t lie & would (nicely) say that I didn’t. But I did like it. I’ll also be honest & say there was one picture in his review that convinced me to give it a go:

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THAT is awesome. It made me think of the droogs in A Clockwork Orange. As I watched The Warriors, I annoyed everyone with tweets about it. This is what I said & it really does give you a good idea of what this movie is like:

This is like Beat Street crossed with Michael Jackson’s Beat It crossed with West Side Story crossed with Vanishing Point crossed with A Clockwork Orange crossed with Adventures In Babysitting! (I’ll add Xanadu to that now too, which the guy playing new Warriors leader Swan was also in. Crossed with The Bad News Bears. And especially The Lord Of The Rings). And, apparently, the story in the novel & movie is actually loosely based on some famous Greek story written by one of the students of Socrates! (I shit you not. Anabasis by Xenophon. Thanks, Wikipedia! Read about it – it’s really interesting!)

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I knew of The Warriors & knew what the poster looked like & everything but didn’t know much about it. I know it’s a cult classic but am actually surprised it’s not even more well known than it is. I think it deserves its “cult classic” status – it’s actually quite iconic (Especially the very beginning of the film when all the different gangs are gathered together & they all have their own unique look. GREAT opening – the best bit of the entire movie). It’s also a simple story yet, at the same time, a rather epic “journey through enemy territory” story (remember – it’s an ancient Greek tale). I’m not being too kind to it – I honestly think it deserves more credit than it probably gets.

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The Warriors is much better than I was expecting but it’s still not perfect. While I think it really does have moments of greatness, it does have weak moments as well. The beginning is fantastic as are some of the later run-ins with various gangs. But I think the film kind of peters out at the end, which was a little disappointing after such a great start. It just kind of seemed like an abrupt ending after the “long & difficult journey through the night”. However, I liked the sharp contrast between the ending & the rest of the film (night/day & very different surroundings). I suppose it was symbolic or something. Of… Whatever. I don’t know. It’s Greek! I also loved the final Joe Walsh song – I haven’t heard that in over 20 years!

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This is one of those films that I actually wish was longer. I’d love to have seen more gangs from the opening scene make an appearance later in the film. A run-in with these guys would have been great! (Hi-Hats, I looked it up):

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At least we get a battle with those cool ass baseball dudes (Baseball Furies) and a gang dressed like Dexy’s Midnight Runners with a leader on roller skates (Punks). We even have some girls! (The Lizzies). There are others but these are the ones I thought were the coolest. And, of course, we can’t forget our heroes – The Warriors.

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Then of course there’s the biggest & scariest gang, The Riffs, who are rather pissed off over the murder of their leader. Most the gangs in this actually come across as quite wussy but I would NOT want to piss these guys off:

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Finally we have the main rival gang, The Rogues, who are responsible for the death of Cyrus & the ones who framed The Warriors (that’s not a spoiler, you know that at the start). The main bad guy is a bit Spicoli in Fast Times At Ridgemont High with a really annoying voice. And he’s a total wuss:

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Summary:

The Warriors is worthy of its status as a cult classic. It has some very iconic moments and the deceptively simple storyline of a journey through enemy territory (it’s an Ancient Greek tale!). I’m glad I finally got around to watching it 34 years after its release.

My Rating: 9/10

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Django Unchained (2012) Review

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Django Unchained

Directed by Quentin Tarantino

Starring:
Jamie Foxx
Christoph Waltz
Leonardo DiCaprio
Kerry Washington
Samuel L. Jackson
Walton Goggins
Dennis Christopher
James Remar
Michael Parks
Don Johnson

Running time: 165 minutes

Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)

Set in the antebellum era of the Deep South and Old West, the film follows a freed slave (Foxx) who treks across the United States with a bounty hunter (Waltz) on a mission to rescue his wife (Washington) from a cruel plantation owner (DiCaprio).

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My Opinion:

Django Unchained got second place after Stoker when I asked all of you which film I should review next. Sorry it’s still taking me a bit of time to get around to these reviews.

I should maybe re-watch this one as I saw it in the cinema back in January but I remember it well anyway. I still consider it my favorite film of 2013 (UK release date). But it’s one of the only 2013 movies that I didn’t review. I have a strange relationship with Tarantino films – I think they’re brilliant but I also can’t fully watch any of them as I’m a mega wuss about violence. Figure that one out… Plus so many people love Tarantino and there will be tons of great reviews online from people who are proper writers and I don’t know what I could really add to all that. So, as usual, I’ll just discuss what I personally liked about the film.

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I’ll get right to it and say that there’s ONE very specific thing that made me really go for this movie even though I literally “saw” less of this than probably any other Tarantino film as I found the violence in this one the most disturbing yet & didn’t even look at the screen for a couple entire scenes (the “Mandingo” fight for one – the sound effects alone were enough to make me feel ill). I think everyone knows what I’m going to say that one specific thing is as I think most people agree:

CHRISTOPH WALTZ

He’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. I have to say I’m not one to worship actors – I just like movies. I do have some favorite actors, of course, and a few actors who will make me actually watch a film they’re in (or, more often, avoid one). But I just enjoy watching movies I think are good and for the most part don’t care who’s in them as long as the actors fit the part and they’re not really horrible at acting and they’re not Tom Cruise.

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But… Oh my god I love Waltz in Tarantino films! I know that not ALL the credit can go to Waltz, though – As many people have already said, there’s just something about a Tarantino script combined with Waltz’s acting that’s just the perfect fit. I really need to watch Inglourious Basterds again – the scene with Waltz at the beginning was so intense (I barely watched that scene. Sorry – I just couldn’t! My heart was pounding like crazy).

I love the character of Dr King Schultz in Django Unchained. He’ll go down as one of the all-time best characters with one of the all-time greatest performances (in my opinion but, hey, he did win an Oscar for it). This is why poor Jamie Foxx seems so overlooked in the title role – He was fine but he just didn’t quite have that special “something” that Waltz has so his performance naturally pales in comparison.

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Before I go on kissing Waltz’s ass too much, there was one other performance that I also felt was worthy of at least an Oscar nomination: Leonardo DiCaprio. Why does he keep getting overlooked? Is it because he’s a former “heartthrob”? I’m not exactly a Leo fan but I think he’s had some amazing performances in a variety of films and Django Unchained is one of them.

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As for the film itself, I liked the overall story. I like revenge (Kill Bill being my favorite Tarantino film) and I like some good old-fashioned “rescue the helpless woman” sometimes as it’s set in the old West (or old South). I found the “Blazing Saddles” type of comic relief scene with the masks funny, all the stuff at Candyland was great, Don Johnson was actually not bad and, as already mentioned, DiCaprio and especially Waltz were brilliant and a joy to watch whenever they were on screen (which was quite a lot, luckily).

Tarantino’s role was a bit embarrassing, the violence was too much for me, and I’m not 100% sure if it’s okay to like Samuel L Jackson’s character or not. I love the guy (I’ve had it with these motherfucking snakes on this motherfucking plane!) but that role was probably getting into iffy territory and I’m so not going there – there’s already been enough talk of the excessive use of the N word in this so I’ll leave that to intelligent people to dissect. I also felt that Django Unchained lost its way a bit in the last 45 minutes or so – it started to feel a little overlong and seemed to not be completely sure how to end although I found it a satisfying enough conclusion.

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Summary:

Django Unchained is another great film from Tarantino with a brilliant script and excessive violence than can be a little hard to watch. But I suffer through the violence as I think Tarantino is one of today’s most talented filmmakers. I’ve never watched classic Westerns but did force myself to watch the excellent Once Upon A Time In The West for the first time a couple months ago and it’s made me appreciate Django Unchained even more and made me want to further explore the influences on the film. Django Unchained isn’t a perfect film and does lose its way toward the end but with such a mesmerizing performance from Christoph Waltz, who cares? The man is amazing.

My Rating: 8.5/10

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See where Django Unchained ranks in My Top Five Films Directed By Quentin Tarantino.

My Shitty Django Unchained Haiku:

To rescue his love
Django and Schultz hunt bounty
The D is silent