The Last Winter

I saw an ad for The Last Winter in a magazine and, not having heard anything prior to that or even gaining any relevant information about the movie from the ad, was immediately interested and knew I had to see it, regardless of what kind of reviews it had. The reason being it starred Ron Perlman and the ad was gorgeous. If the movie was to look anything like the ad, I would love it on that basis alone.

Turns out, The Last Winter is a horror movie of sorts. Kind of like a cross breed of John Carpenter’s The Thing and Roland Emmerich’s The Day After Tomorrow. If that sounds like a weird combo, you’re right. Here’s a quick sum up of the storyline. An oil company is attempting to dig for oil in Alaska and sends an environmentalist (a scruffy James LeGros, the same guy who played McBeth in the fantastic and relatively unknown Scotland, PA) to keep on eye on the crew (led by Perlman). They’re unable to bring in the heavy machinery necessary for oil drilling because the temperatures are too high and the permafrost is melting, making the ground too soft. And that’s when strange things start happening.

The Last Winter isn’t like The Thing where you actually see the monster but rather takes a more psychological approach. Being out in the middle of the tundra for weeks on end tends to take it’s toll on people, and eventually they can go a little crazy or get “big eye” as they call it in Winter. So at first we’re never really sure if everybody is going insane or if there are actual beasts attacking them. I really love it when the director leaves plenty to the imagination of the audience, allowing us to get sucked deeper into the story.

So The Last Winter is successful on that front, and it is gorgeously filmed, especially the outdoor shots. Wide expanses of nothing but white, so much so that the horizon becomes nearly invisible at points. Beautifully minimal, it really emphasizes just how alone the characters are. Sadly, though, Winter ultimately screws up. And in a really big way. The audience is given way too much information at the end. ***minor spoiler*** Instead of leaving us with the assumption that almost everyone has died, we’re given a cheesy and ridiculous ending that looks like the beginning of 28 Days Later. Someone emerges from a hospital and finds the town in chaos, deserted. ***end spoiler*** It’s completely unnecessary and pretty much destroys everything the movie built up.

Sometimes it’s important to know when to say when. I doubt writer/director Larry Fessenden had too much pressure from the higher ups to end it the way he did. I feel like he just thought it was better that way. But when you have such a subtle, delicate movie, it seems so wrong to disregard it all just to over-explain something that couldn’t possibly be explained to begin with.

Regardless, I still recommend The Last Winter. The first 85 minutes of the movie are great, with wonderful performances by most actors and beautiful cinematography. If you don’t mind being let down in the last 15 minutes, then I say go for it. Or better yet, don’t bother watching the end. You won’t be left with a sense of closure but with this kind of movie, you don’t need it.


Step Brothers

You know Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly. You know their shtick. They play adult idiots. They’ve done it in every movie they’ve starred in in the past few years. They started strong with Anchorman and slowly declined with Talladega Nights, Walk Hard, Blades Of Glory, Semi-Pro, and now Step Brothers. In this, their most recent, they play two immature guys in their late 30s living with their single parents, their parents hook up, and they all move in together. Hilarity ensues. Or at least, that’s what they want you to think.

Step Brothers is a decent enough comedy. It’s shallow brain candy. It’s certainly not in the league of Anchorman or The 40 Year Old Virgin, it’s more on par with Blades Of Glory, which I liked. And I like Step Brothers. It has it’s moments of hilarity but the sad part is, most of those parts are found in the trailer for the movie. There are a still few other scenes that are pretty funny, but it all feels kind of played out. I’d like to see these guys do something funny as a different character. They’ve done the idiot thing, I think it’s time to try something else.

But (and this is a big but) if you’re looking for some summer popcorn flick that doesn’t involve a superhero and big explosions, then Step Brothers might be right up your alley. Just don’t go in expecting something new and exciting.

Right At Your Door

If you have a fear of impending doom coming from the hands of terrorists, it’d be best if you stayed away from Right At Your Door. The premise of this film is a dirty bomb goes off in downtown L.A. and we see the subsequent fear and chaos that erupts in one particular home outside the city. Brad (played by Rory Cochrane aka Lucas from Empire Records) just moved into a new home with his wife Lexi (Mary McCormack) right outside downtown, presumably so Lexi could be closer to her job in the city. We get very little information in terms of background of the couple, as the movie begins with Brad making breakfast for his wife just before she goes into work. Not 10 minutes after she leaves, Brad hears the familiar tone of the Emergency Broadcast System interrupting the radio, but it’s not followed by the usual “If this had been an actual emergency…” This time it’s real.

The only real information Brad can get is that there has been multiple explosions in the city, from unknown sources, most likely terrorists. Unable to get ahold of his wife via phone, Brad attempts to drive to her office to pick her up and get her out of ground zero. He’s not the only one thinking such things, however, and Brad finds that the police have already started blocking off every street leading to the downtown area. Brad’s only option now is to go home and wait. And hope.

We watch as Brad seals up his home with every inch of plastic and duct tape he has, waiting until the last possible moment for his wife to return before he completely closes himself off from the outside world. Lexi arrives, but only after the ground is covered in ash and she is sealed out of her home. The big question comes, and you knew it would, whether Brad should open the door to let his (obviously) sick/dying wife inside and in doing so expose himself to the unknown threat outside or should he keep her outside and hope help arrives before it’s too late? Is there a right answer? How can someone even make a decision like that?

Right At Your Door preys on our biggest fears as citizens living in present day United States. It’s a contemporary horror movie that’s intense from start to finish. It was thrilling and eye opening, making me consider what I would do in a situation like that. My only issue with Right At Your Door was the ending. There was an over the top, unnecessary twist that took me right out of an otherwise realistic and believable film. Somewhat of a glaring defect when contrasted with the rest of the movie, especially because it’s the last feeling that I was left with. However, overall it’s a movie I would recommend to others and possibly even watch again myself. But like I said before, it’s probably not best for those already paranoid about such events happening as it will most likely only fuel your fears.

24 Hour Party People

24 Hour Party People is a crazy movie and not quite what I was expecting. When I heard the title and saw the psychedelic colors on the cover of the DVD, I immediately thought trippy rave movie, (similar to Groove). And when the opening credits came on, it seemed like I was right. I’m not really into that type of movie (mostly because I’m not really into that type of lifestyle) but a friend highly recommended it to me and it stars Steve Coogan (as Tony Wilson) so I knew it couldn’t be all bad, even if it was about ecstasy and disco balls. As it turns out, 24 Hour Party People is not about raves (well, not at first anyway) and it is a fantastic, albeit weird movie.

Party People is about the music scene in Manchester starting in the mid ’70s, told from the point of view of Tony Wilson, the guy who kick started the whole scene. This film utilizes some elements that I don’t normally like in a movie but for some reason or other, they worked out really well in this instance. For example, Steve Coogan, the narrator and the main character, didn’t do a voiceover for the narration. Instead, he would momentarily take himself out of the scene and look at the camera, addressing the viewer. Normally, that comes off as hokey and gimmicky, but Coogan (especially as Wilson) is perfectly suited to do just such a thing. Also, Party People was such a hectic, fast paced movie that it was jumping in and out and all over the place constantly so it never seemed out of place when Coogan would do such unusual narration.

Generally speaking, this is a movie that doesn’t sit perfectly in any genre. It’s part music movie, part biography, part comedy, part drama, with lots of other parts thrown in for good measure. Director Michael Winterbottom (who recently did A Mighty Heart with Angelina Jolie) seemed sure enough of what he wanted, and wasn’t particularly interested in making it flow smoothly. The biographical parts seemed almost secondary to the story. When Ian Curtis of Joy Division killed himself, we’re hardly given any rhyme or reason as to why it happened (if you’re interested in the rhyme and reasons, check out the new Ian Curtis biopic, Control, directed by Anton Corbijn). I think what we see in the movie as “important” is only what was important to Tony Wilson or Michael Winterbottom. Such as all of the quick scenes of Tony Wilson (a reporter for Granada Reports) at various locations, shooting stories and interviews. My personal favorite is when he’s talking to some sheep herder who is actually yelling orders at a duck (“Go left!”) while shaking a stick at it. The duck obeys and then herds the sheep. It’s hilarious and out of place, like most of the scenes in this movie. But when they’re strung together, they seem to be cohesive in some sort of indirect way.

24 Hour Party People is certainly not for everyone. I recommend having an interest in music history, especially ’80s British music. That will help. Also, if you’re a big fan of Steve Coogan (and why wouldn’t you be?) then this here is a 2 hour Steve Coogan marathon. I also definitely recommend not watching this if you already have a headache (like I did) because it will only make it worse. That being said, if you’ve got any two of the three, then make haste and watch this movie. You won’t regret it.