Monday, September 19, 2011
Chillerama is an anthology horror film, and man, anything fucking goes. There's a contagious joy as each movie attempts to up the one previous for sheer bloody-minded wrongness (the most clever is The Diary of Anne Frankenstein), and various bodily fluids and parts fly with abandon. But the thing's informed by no shortage of love for the drive-in movie experience - the framing sequence sets the movies as the offerings on a drive-in theatre's final night, and emotion and action fuse the caricaturistic but keenly-felt characters wind up making their own desperate bid for survival as a zombie plague sweeps the rows. Chillerama stands tall as a monument for this kind of batshit-crazy experience, and the audience I saw it with at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery offered the kind of enthusiasm and warmth you just can't get watching a movie on your fucking iPhone.
Drive is a lovely film, indeed, from the cold open heist/getaway through the last shot. Ryan Gosling plays his role with Terminator efficiency, but his thawing is absolutely credible. Just about every shot in this thing is suitable for framing (my favorite is the look on Christina Hendricks' face as the pursuing vehicle wipes out through the windshield behind her). Much is being made (quite reasonably) about Albert Brooks' against-type performance, but Bryan Cranston is equally strong - there's not even a shade of Walter White in his broken-down but earnest mechanic. I'd been eager to see how Nicolas Winding Refn (of the PUSHER trilogy, BRONSON, and my favorite FEAR X) would fare in his Hollywood debut - handpicked for the job by Gosling, and given resources and skilled craftspeople than I think he'd ever enjoyed, he's crafted his best film. An 80s-style crime film that nevertheless feels totally fresh.
Restless is an intimate step back by Gus van Sant from the epic period piece trappings of Milk. It's a quiet, quirky (but not overly so) tale of a young misfit whose life is transformed by his relationship with an imaginative cancer patient. There's absolutely nothing in it that hasn't been seen before, but Mia Wasikowska and Henry Hopper are a charming pair of young leads, and the thing is played so quietly and honestly that it earns each of its melodramatic hits.