Friday, November 30, 2018

Overlord, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and The Endless

Nazi Zombies!!!! WOOOT!!!!
Okay, that’s the silly fanboy horror geek in me. Two of the most “guilt-free” monsters ever created are the zombies and the Nazis. Bring them together and you have a guilt-free experience of blood, guts, and full bore adrenaline body horror and nasty nasty NASTY blood and guts GORE!!!! BRING IT ON!!!!
Testosterone pumping, the movie starts and I’m all in…. We’re on a plane, we’re headed into Nazi territory, they’re shooting the plane, they’re jumping, and it’s chaos and madness and war war WAR!!!! And as they make their way through a night-enshrouded wilderness, hunted by Nazis, desperate to aid to mission that will secure Allied victory… my wife leans over to me and whispers “This is boring.”
Boring?!?!!! I shake my head in wonder and point to a screen where a landmine is blowing apart a poor American soldier, where there are hanging corpses in the trees, and where the German Nazi Forces are stalking the dark wilderness outside a small town in France. The mission depends on taking out that communications tower hidden in the bowels of the church where a scientist is performing experiments that will revive dead flesh.
Led by a demolitions expert (Wyatt Russell – Son of Kurt and Goldie), the rag tag soldiers are few in number and ill-trained to boot. French translator Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo), sniper Tibbet (John Magaro) and photographer Morton Chase (Iain De Caestecker) must trust a village woman (Mathilde Ollivier) to lead them through the forest, to the village, and then plan their strategy while hiding in her home near the church. But it isn’t long before they learn about the mysterious experiments taking place and are left battling something far more insidious than just the Third Reich.
No, friends… this movie is NOT boring, despite the eye-rolling protestations of my wife. And even she perked up when the soldiers finally learn what the experiments really mean and what dangers it represents.
A solid 8 out of 10.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.
This Coen Brothers oddity hit Netflix, skipping a  theatrical run and leaving me to feel a little cheated as a result. But, at the same time, I can’t say that this would have necessarily been one of their usual hits with fans. With a series of six Western Vignettes, the Coen’s spin a bit of an awkward film with strange characters that is consistently entertaining but not precisely on the mainstream. They draw some amazing performances from a number of well-known character actors; including John Lithgow, Liam Neeson, James Franco, and others.
The film is often very dark, very bleak, and also very funny. It hits several comedic points, especially in the opening vignette about a traveling balladeer turned gunslinger. He’s an open, congenial, happy and cold hearted killer of men. Punctuated with acts of terrible violence, the light-hearted nature of the first vignette sets the tone for the rest of the series as we go from one unfortunate character to the next. Every moment was exquisitely planned to bring a depth of emotion and builds to the final vignette featuring five strangers traveling by stage-coach, a ride filled with dread and uncertainty.
Artfully shot with some amazing cinematography, I feel that the film would have looked amazing on the large screen and the sweeping landscapes felt far too small for the television. And this is probably the largest critique I can make regarding this feature- it’s too small for Netflix. Like a few other releases in recent months, the direct to streaming platform may be fine for convenience but ultimately harms the movie-going experience on the whole. I don’t just want to be entertained with a story, I want to sit in a theater and be amazed and transported. I want to have an experience. But this isn’t the fault of the film itself, but rather it’s distribution.
9.5 out of 10.
The Endless
After escaping from a cult nearly a decade prior, two brothers return after receiving a strange video. They come to find the cult is still living in a barren stretch of mountain desert inhabited by meth-farms, drug dealers, and other strange inhabitants. The brothers are welcomed warmly by the cult, fed, and they experience a kind of homecoming and acceptance that they never saw in the outside world. As one of the brothers begins to feel tempted for a permanent return, the other brother continues to distrust and question the strange atmosphere and behavior that he’s seeing.
That’s it. That’s the movie- that’s the absolute MOST you should know before seeing the film. What happens next is a strange story inspired by the madness of Lovecraft and the weirdness of Kafka. The world is not what we think, things are certainly not as they seem, and every trope one would expect is abandoned for a story designed to ask questions and never force an easy answer. This movie is just so fucking WEIRD, man! And the characters react perfectly to their increasingly bizarre situation, driving the narrative to an exciting conclusion.
10 out of 10.

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