Quick Takes: Nightmare City, Your Highness, The Foot Fist Way

nightmare-city-poster-161Nightmare City [Incubo Sulla Cittá Contaminata] (1980)
AKA City of the Walking Dead

fourstar

Starring Hugo Stiglitz, Laura Trotter, Maria Rosaria Omaggio, Francisco Rabal, Sonia Viviani, Eduardo Fajardo, Stefania D’Amario, Ugo Bologna
Directed by Umberto Lenzi

I’ve had Nightmare City on my radar for a while, but the arrival of Tom Savini’s crowdfunded remake-to-be gave me that extra little push in the right direction. Simply put, Nightmare City is a fuckin’ blast. I’ve always been a firm supporter of traditional, walking zombies, with the focus on the incessant nature of the never-tiring horde instead of the more immediate threat that running zombies deliver. But Nightmare City, the first film to use running zombies, proved to me that they can be just as fun, if not more. Director Umberto Lenzi crafts a film with scene after scene of pure balls-out madness, and the way it all bursts forth and inundates the unsuspecting viewer is incredible fun. One moment I was in tense apprehension for what might be behind that aircraft door, and then WHAM! A fucking horde of mud-faced, bloodthirsty fiends runs out, and the rest of the movie never lets up. The running zombies work here because Lenzi still embraces the overwhelming nature of the horde, while also delivering more fun than I think I’ve ever had with a zombie movie. It’s firmly a B-Movie, though, so many will scoff at its low-budget FX, but I say fuck all that and just have a good time with it!

yourhighness_1Your Highness (2011)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, James Franco, Rasmus Hardiker, Natalie Portman, Toby Jones, Justin Theroux, Zooey Deschanel, Charles Dance, Damian Lewis
Directed by David Gordon Green

Not sure how to review this one because it’s the kind of movie you pretty much know how you’ll feel about it before you watch it. If you liked Eastbound & Down and you’ve come on a quest for more Danny McBride to put in your head, Your Highness is a hoot. It helps if you also have an affinity for ’80s movies, specifically ’80s fantasy flicks like Beastmaster or Conan the Barbarian. If you’re not that person, I can’t imagine this being anything close to entertaining. But for me, I’m firmly in the first group, so I really enjoyed seeing Danny McBride in a fantasy setting. The ’80s-style CG lightning was also a quick way to my heart, but I think the perverted, Yoda-like Wise Wizard, brought to life by a puppet, really sealed the deal. Where a lot of ’80s throwbacks just feel like modern movies, Your Highness actually gets the spirit of ’80s sword-and-sorcery movies down pat, and it’s got more than its share of hilarity if you’re in the right frame of mind.

foot_fist_way_xlgThe Foot Fist Way (2006)
threestar

Starring Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic, Ben Best, Spencer Moreno, Carlos Lopez, Jody Hill, Ken Aguilar, Collette Wolfe
Directed by Jody Hill

Your Highness got me in the mood for some more Danny McBride, which naturally led me to The Foot Fist Way. McBride plays a Tae Kwon Do instructor that is every bit the foul-mouthed blowhard you’d expect him to be. The character is not as defined as McBride’s Kenny Powers role on Eastbound & Down, but you can clearly see the beginnings of that idea in The Foot Fist Way. Fans will definitely enjoy this one, but as this is the roughest of the McBride films, it’s not one to show everybody. Of course, I love me some martial arts, so the parody of that environment and the characters that inhabit it hit very solidly with me.

Quick Takes: The Baxter, Burlesque, The Secret in Their Eyes

This is a new feature I’m trying out. Let me know if you think it’s a good idea or not. At certain times I end up watching more movies than usual and I don’t have time to write reviews for them all. This always nags at me, as these movies are seen but not weighed in on via the site, so I thought I’d throw them together in one Quick Takes post and leave it at that. Your thoughts?


The Baxter (2005)

Starring Michael Showalter, Elizabeth Banks, Michelle Williams, Justin Theroux
Directed by Michael Showalter

Great acting and some funny writing make this take on the romantic comedy fun and heart-warming. Michelle Williams is especially fantastic here, as are Michael Showalter and Elizabeth Banks. I generally hate romantic comedies, but The Baxter won me over with its interesting premise, quality script and nice visuals.

Burlesque (2010)

Starring Christina Aguilera, Cher, Eric Dane, Cam Gigandet, Kristen Bell, Stanley Tucci
Directed by Steve Antin

Burlesque isn’t a very good movie. It’s highly formulaic, it’s overlong, it’s derivative of every other film in the genre. But damn if Burlesque isn’t entertaining! The acting is surprisingly very good, even from Christina Aguilera. Cher and Stanley Tucci play off each other perfectly, selling the story that they’ve been friends for decades. Visually very pleasing and the songs are enjoyable, Burlesque is a good evening off for your brain. AND get this… it’s the directorial début from Steve Antin, Troy from The Goonies!

The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)

Starring Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo Rago, Javier Godino, Guillermo Francella
Directed by Juan José Campanella

This Academy Award winning film for Best Foreign Language film is a stunner. Slow-moving and methodical, it is more of a character study than the detective thriller it might seem to be from the back of the box. As a character study it is extremely competent, with every moment informed by the deep well of character motivations that each actor has to pull from. The last fifteen minutes are fantastic and take the old “Would this character do that?” writing argument to a masterful conclusion. Highly recommended, as long as you don’t mind a slow-burning film.

American Psycho (2000)

Starring Christian Bale, Willem Dafoe, Reese Witherspoon, Chloë Sevigny, Jared Leto, Justin Theroux, Josh Lucas, Cara Seymour, Samantha Mathis

Directed by Mary Harron

Expectations: Moderate.


American Psycho is a tough movie to categorize. It’s not really a horror movie, or a drama, or a dark comedy, but it exhibits many traits of all three genres. It makes for an interesting movie to say the least, but unfortunately it’s a bit soulless so it ends up being less than it could be. The soulless nature of the film is a reflection of its main character though, and perfectly portrays the 1980s culture of narcissism and the “dog eat dog” mentality of corporate America. This element is arguably a great strength, despite my personal dislike of it, and helps director Mary Harron do exactly what she sets out to do when making the film.

Christian Bale plays Patrick Bateman, Wall Street exec and all-around yuppie stereotype. He’s ultra-narcissistic and self-serving and Bale plays the role convincingly and with ease. The entire supporting cast is great as well, but as Bale hogs up most of the runtime, they are all relegated to fairly minor parts, so don’t get too excited looking at the cast list. Willem Dafoe is only in three or four short scenes, for instance. This is completely Bale’s film and he proves here why he has become the star he is today. Those who don’t generally care for his performances may not be won over with his work here, but he does craft a career-defining role that never feels forced or unnatural. I’ve always felt that Bale possessed something of a psychotic nature so he’s a good fit in the film, but maybe I’m just buying into his wonderful method acting in this and the Nolan Batman films.

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