This is quite a wonderful week for indie flicks indeed. Not only are there films across all genres, but there are TWO five-star films on the list that are also in full contention for my Top Ten Films of 2017. (Viva the lush The Lure and cool Catfight!) Mermaids with mayhem in mind, gals with a grudge, body hoping demons, odd homecomings, tales of the undressed, coming to terms with the past and being trapped in a sandy prison are the subjects dissected in the seven films that make up this weeks Encapsulated Movie Reviews. Check out the skinny on The Lure, Catfight, Don’t Kill It, Donald Cried, Burlesque: Heart of the Glitter Tribe, Lavender and Deserted below!
In one of the most daring feature debuts ever seen by this film critic, Polish Director Agnieszka Smoczynska with her five-star flick The Lure creates a true genius genre-jumping masterwork. A tale of two alluring yet wicked mermaids who hit dry land and join a cabaret show is part horror film, part musical, part fantasy, part fable and part love story presented as one unforgettable original piece of celluloid. From the stylistic visuals (Smoczynska shows the artistic eye of a young Kathryn Bigelow!) to the standout performances (Marta Mazurek’s siren Srebrna exudes sweet innocence, while Michalina Olszanska’s Zlota is the feisty fine firecracker – both deadly!) and even the songs and score (this one carries the 80’s new-wave sound seal of approval!), The Lure is the cure for those who say movies have become mundane – just add water.
(MPI Media Group/Dark Sky Films)
Having enjoyed the witty aside antics of actor/director/writer Onur Tukel (see Summer of Blood and Applesauce people!) for many years now, finally the talented filmmaker has hit his outlandish five-star stride with the arrival of the viscous and vivacious Catfight. Pitting actress Sandra Oh against actress Anne Heche in a fist-flying flick with a Happiness like caustic comical edge (it even has alum Dylan Baker as a hapless doctor!) is truly a match made in movie heaven. Stepping up to the mano-a-mano (or should I say womano-a-womano!) plate, Oh and Heche get down and dirty, not just in their all out They Live babe brawl (and it happens more than once fight fans!), but also in their poignant portrayal of two unlikeable ladies who get a dress down dose of humility – and learn nothing. Sculpted ever so skillfully by Tukel (he even adds in some pointed political jabs!), the outlandish storylines match the over-the-top tiffs to a tee and make for a film that delivers what it promises on all levels. In a world where movie names are sometimes deceiving, Tukel’s Catfight completely satisfies all titular cravings.
DON’T KILL IT
I have to give credit where credit is due –this Dolph Lundgren outing doesn’t suck. In fact this is the film that his previously bad past picture I Come In Peace – a horrible flick whose title made no sense – should have been. Taking both the familiar idea of a body jumping menace (in this case a exorcist like demon!) that moves upon death and Lundgren as a spiritual bounty hunter, Director Mike Mendez (yes, he of Big Ass Spider! fame!) wisely adds abundant doses of tongue-in-cheek comedy, brutal kills and some good and cheesy (love both for the record!) practical blood and guts effects work for a fabulous film that never takes itself too seriously. So in the end it’s the perfect dry humor movie match to the stoic nature of Lundgren’s stoic on-screen persona that ultimately saves Don’t Kill It from the brutal bashing of the bargain bin.
A kind of indie gritty What About Bob? that forces sullen big city fellow Peter (great reaction man Jesse Wakeman!) to head back to his childhood home and into the life of his former uncouth buddy Donald (mullet sporting oddball Kris Avedisian!) on a journey of past bad acts, unpleasant memories and embarrassing events. Less a laugh-out-loud experience and more an exercise in the uncomfortable, Avedisian’s Donald is definitely the hidden gem of the flick with more than enough cinematic creepy to go around. In a flick that makes one unsure whether to laugh or cringe, it’s the curious company the film keeps that makes a watch worthy.
BURLESQUE: HEART OF THE GLITTER TRIBE
An interesting look at the current state of the old profession known as Burlesque through a local group who proudly still perform its age old wares. Good news is there is not only revealing sections about the performers themselves (from past history to current relationship status all affected by the job!) but also deep detail about what a labor of love the whole affair is. (The intricate and amazing costumes are insane and seriously time consuming!) Bad news is I still never fully understood the definition, idea or pull behind the strip club alternative of Burlesque and would have loved to see more history on its existence and influence over the years. But as a entertaining time capsule piece on the performers of today, the Glitter Tribe’s tales appropriately tantalize.
(AMBI Media Group/Samuel Goldwyn Films)
What begins with an arresting opening that’s both stylistic and shocking, goes into ho-hum horror story territory with lead gal Abbie Cornish seeing dead people while having to deal with a mysterious “unknown” past. Trying way too hard to be clever, full of obvious twists and turns and utterly predictable in its final reveals, Director Ed Gass-Donnelly is certainly good in the visual department (the whole car accident staging is both beautiful and tragic!) but needs a more original story to match it. Filled with everything film familiar, Lavender the movie is much like the flower – just good to look at.
Again yet another film that starts off with a strong story involving a just released from prison Mischa Barton looking to reconnect with her brother and the outside world. Problem is the filmmakers bypass the initial dramatic through line and simply strand the somber siblings alongside a gaggle of other goofs in a long desert and watch the sparks fly. It’s a terrible waste of both engaging performances (an effective Barton deserved a better film for her work here!) and side stories (the brother’s new girlfriend has a secret connection to Barton that simply falls by the wayside!) that get introduced only to become filler film fodder for a desert drama we’ve seen before – it’s Barton and her intriguing character who truly get deserted here.