Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Movie Review: Eastern Promises

If there was a Career Revival 101 course, the director of this movie should definitely run it.

I'm referring of course to David Cronenberg, he of 80s classic Videodrome fame.

But Videodrome wasn't the whole story. Consider for a moment The Brood (an early one that is a truly nasty-ass horror flick featuring one of Ollie Reed's finest turns) and what about Dead Ringers, one of the most bizarre stories ever to feature not one, but two Jeremy Irons's! Then, of course, there's The Fly and The Dead Zone, one of the best Stephen King adaptations around.

Hell, in the opinion of this hack, Cronenberg is right up there with Sam Riami and George Romero in the pantheon of the gods when it comes to the horror genre...

But then something happened.

What that was I'm not entirely sure, but he seemed to lose the plot for a while, with oddball outings like Crash and ExistenZ and plain turkeys like Spider. Until that is, A History of Violence, when he came roaring back with a vengeance (and got a nomination for Palme D'Or at the Cannes Film Festival in the bargain, followed by two Oscar nominations. Hooah!).

So I'm really stoked to report that Eastern Promises is proof positive that HOV was no flash in the old pan. Cronenberg is back, people!

Perhaps the catalyst for this revival is that he has in Viggo Mortenson a leading man who can deliver the kind of low-key intensity interspersed with moments of extreme violence that seems to turn him on.

That's right... make no mistake, Cronenberg is still one sick puppy, he's just moved his unique skillsets and warped vision away from the horror genre and into the realm of adult entertainment (no, not that kind).

So in Eastern Promises we again have Viggo, only this time he's a Russian mob enforcer, Nikolai. Nikolai sports some seriously suave suits (and a faintly ridiculous pompadour hairdo which fortunately doesn't detract from his air of steely menace) but they can't hide his tattoos.

Tattoos which tell you that Nikolai is one bad-ass dude, who despite his low-key manner, is the go-to guy when you need the nasty jobs done.

Nikolai is a member of the Russian mob, headed up by Semyon, played magnificently by Armin Meuller-Stahl. Semyon comes across all cosy cardigans and twinkly eyed charm, like your favourite Grandfather. Until it turns out he's actually a stone psycho who's about as close to Santa Claus as Klaus Barbie.

Rounding out the key players is Naomi Watts, as radiant as ever, and the ever-reliable French boyo Vincent Cassel as Kirill, Semyon's wastrel son. Both deliver in spades.

Eastern Promises is a simple little flick, without any grand setpieces or even gunplay. It is, however, anchored by a fabulous knife fight in a Turkish bathhouse, which will be particularly thrilling for the ladies, as it features Viggo butt nekkid, fighting off two assassins with his bare hands.

The camera hides nothing (and takes us a little closer to an actor's asshole than I usually care to get), but you can't deny the courage it must have taken for Viggo to agree to do it. It's raw, savage and puts the fanciful choreographed gunplay you see in most gangster flicks these days to shame.

However, what really makes Eastern Promises such a fantastic entertainment (other than the great performances all round) is the superb script by Steven Knight, the restrained direction from Mr Cronenberg and the rain-soaked London setting.

Luckily for us horror freaks, Cronenberg is not entirely done with the corn syrup, and dips into his SFX box for a great little scene where Viggo has to remove the fingers off a corpse and another bit where a guy gets his throat graphically slashed. I'm happy to report he's lost none of his skills for stomach-turning gore, but here it's strictly employed in service of the story.

Verdict: Rocks hard!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Movie Review: Walk Hard, The Dewey Cox Story

I rented this one because a) Dewey Cox is played by John C Reilly, an actor I really enjoy and b) Judd Apatow was involved with the script. Old Judd has been on something of a career high lately, cranking out pretty damn hilarious comedies one after the other like he sprinkles crystal meth on his cornflakes or something.

Think 40 Year Old Virgin, SuperBad, Knocked Up... and you're getting a picture of what Judd can do when the crack is flowing.... Kidding! Seriously, old Judd's probably just a really talented guy who can just shove out great comedies like some of us move our bowels.

Look, I love Judd Apatow movies OK? I'm no snob or anything. LOVE them. So I wanted to see Walk Hard, and I also felt like a good laugh because just lately life has really sucked the big one. Lucky for me, Walk Hard was a pretty good little lift for Friday night.

First off, it's a spoof of Walk the Line. For those of you who live in a deep, dark hole and don't know this, Walk the Line was the totally awesome biopic of Johnny Cash that came out a couple of years ago. It got nominated for a few Oscars and even won one or two (Reese Witherspoon got one for Best Supporting Actress, unless I'm sorely mistaken).

So Walk Hard is a spoof of that (which is why they both have 'Walk' in the title, see?). I suppose Judd and the boys felt it was a little too serious and needed to be spoofed. I dunno... whatever. Judd has his reasons, OK? Give the guy a break...

Basically, Walk Hard loosely follows the story of Walk the Line, except this time Reese is replaced by Jenna Fischer (the hot number from The Office) and Dewey/Johnny's old man is played by Raymond J Barry. I could have sworn it was Roddy McDowell but I was dead wrong (cos Roddy's dead, get it?).

The plot follows Dewey as he goes from being a hick kid until he's an old hick dude with about a dozen kids and a successful recording career. If you've seen Walk the Line, you'll have a pretty good idea of how the story unfolds.

But the plot really isn't important here. What rocks about Walk Hard is John C Reilly, who is one funny mofo. (Don't believe me? check out Boogie Nights and Talladega Nights. Hey, both those flicks have Nights in the title, weird!).

Reilly has a funny face, OK? He's a funny lookin' fella. And that helps a LOT when you're trying to be funny. Apart from that, they do these amazing things with his hair. It's really impressive. Plus John gets to dress up in some really ridiculous outfits. So it just works. Some of the gags in the movie are lame, but there's a pretty hilarious thread about drug use running throughout the flick and that comes along regularly, just when things are getting tired, to liven up proceedings.

The section about the 60s and LSD is particularly good, with nice little cameos from Judd's regular crew (Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Mooj from 40 Year Old Virgin, etc). You can't deny it. Drugs are funny. Especially in the 60s and 70s, when they were friggin hilarious.

The music in Walk Hard is also great, so that's a bonus. All in all, if you dig Walk the Line, or enjoy rock biopics in general, you can't help but like Walk Hard. It rips the ass out of musos who can't function without getting loaded and it's done with real style and class. It ain't Spinal Tap, but it's a pretty good substitute if you can't get a copy of ST on short notice.

Verdict: Well worth a rent!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Welcome, friend!


Welcome to The Crozier Report. Glad you could make it. I intend this to be my little contribution to the blogosphere. There'll be some reviews of movies, CDs and books I've enjoyed - some new, some not so new - plus other musings on subjects that I feel strongly about. Hopefully you can get something good out of it, and if you like what you see, please leave a comment. If not, that's cool too, I'd still like to hear from you. Thanks for stopping by!