Unseen in Reno
Our resident movie critic reviews a few new DVD releases that never played Reno cinemas
In this here movie year of 2010, some pretty damned good films have passed over the Biggest Little City and said “Screw that place!” We score some decent limited releases but, let’s face it, distributors are more inclined to send Stomp the Yard: Still Stompin’ Like a Crazy Bitch! our way than some of the more intriguing, brainy films. Damn you, Reno 911! You have sullied our reputation!
Here’s a gathering of some decent 2010 offerings that didn’t even get a play date at the Riverside downtown or the Summit Sierra theater. They are recent (or fairly recent) DVD releases, so you can watch them in the comfort of your home, where some narrow-minded film booker can’t deprive you.
My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done
First Look Pictures
Special Features: B-
In this characteristically bizarre film from director Werner Herzog, Michael Shannon plays a man with mommy issues who should’ve never gotten into theater. It’s actually based on the true story of a man who slew his mother after becoming obsessed with a Greek tragedy.
This is the first collaboration between Herzog and David Lynch, who produced, and it certainly feels like something these two would do together. Lynch standbys like Grace Zabriskie are in the cast, and, well, the whole thing is just plain weird.
Willem Dafoe, Michael Peña and Chloë Sevigny are all good in this experimental film, where it seems like every single line of dialogue is at least slightly odd. Shannon, always good, basically gets to go nuts. His obsessions with Greek plays, flamingos, and the Quaker Oats guy are well played.
I go for this kind of stuff, but the pacing and strangeness are liable to put a lot of people off. If you’re a fan of Lynch and Herzog, you’re safe. If you hated Blue Velvet and Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, you will hate this even more.
Special features: A short called “Plastic Bag,” a funny film about, of all things, a plastic bag, and a Herzog commentary are the highlights.
Special Features: B+
Director Adam Green, maker of the inconsistent but amusing Hatchet, has made his first great movie, a modern horror classic that managed to really freak me out. And I am not easily freaked.
Three young adults (Emma Bell, Kevin Zegers and Shawn Ashmore) manage to con their way onto a ski lift for some illegally discounted recreational sports. It’s a Sunday, it’s the dead of winter, and it’s close to closing time. The trio wants just one more run, managing to talk the lift attendant into letting them go before shutting things down.
The attendant gets distracted, the power is eventually shut off, and the trio is stranded high up the mountain, 50 feet above the ground with hungry wolves gathering below. The resort is closed until the following Friday so, in short, this amounts to the suckiest boarding trip known to man.
The trio makes some bad decisions right off the bat, resulting in broken limbs, nasty frostbite, and terrifying encounters with those wolves.
Huge credit goes to the cast for keeping the proceedings not only interesting, but also supremely tense. Bell is especially good when one of her costars gets into a major jam below her. Green makes the nice decision to let us mostly hear a wolf attack rather than see the whole thing. The result is horrifying, tear-inducing stuff.
Ashmore, a Stephen Dorff look-alike best known for playing Iceman in the X-Men movies, does a nice job of making you really care for him as he hangs precariously from a lift cable as it shreds his hands. All three performers managed to hook me and get me invested in their plights. I was really rooting for their survival.
But, let’s face it, this wouldn’t be a horror film if they all made it out of their predicament, wiped their backhands across their foreheads, and exclaimed “Whew, that was a close one!” Frozen is a horror film with guts, and one that stayed with me well after I watched it.
Special features: Green and the acting trio deliver a great commentary that details just how painful a shoot this was. When you see the actors up on a lift, they are really up there in frigid cold—no parlor tricks. You also get some nice documentaries with behind-the-scenes looks at what the actors had to go through to create some of the more harrowing scenes. Zegers flopping around on the ground spitting up blood and nearly asphyxiating would be one of the highlights.
The Killer Inside Me
Special Features: C-
Hey, if Frozen doesn’t bum you out enough, take a gander at this unholy movie.
In this highly unpleasant but hypnotic film, Casey Affleck plays a small town sheriff who can’t help but brutally kill people who treat him well. Director Michael Winterbottom goes full-tilt nasty when Affleck’s creepy, disturbingly soft-spoken mess of a man punches Jessica Alba into a bloody pulp, or does equally foul things to Kate Hudson.
Affleck makes this work by giving us a character who is ultimately fascinating in his depravity but, oh lord, don’t watch this with the kids anywhere in sight. It’s a very rough, extremely well-shot ride, and an interesting change of pace for Winterbottom.
Special Features: Somewhat lacking, with only a few interviews.
The Red Riding Trilogy
Special Features: C+
This fascinating trilogy consists of three films directed by three different directors starring the same cast. Various journalists and law officers are hunting and investigating the Yorkshire Ripper, as well as a series of child disappearances and murders.
Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 stars Andrew Garfield, the next Spider-Man, as a journalist who digs a little too deep and pays a dear price. 1980 stars Paddy Considine as a criminal investigator assigned to the case who discovers that his comrades aren’t quite on the level. And 1983 stars David Morrissey, abandoning his comic roots to play a lawyer representing a wrongfully imprisoned man.
Each of the films is equally good, with all three directors maintaining a good period vibe throughout the trilogy. It stands as a good mystery, a terrific period piece, and one of the scarier films about police corruption that you’ll ever see.
While it had its debut on BBC Television, it did get a small limited release in American theaters.
Special features: A separate disc contains some interviews, featurettes and trailers. Supplements aren’t nearly as good as the films.