An abrasive podcaster undergoes a horrific transformation in isolated Canada.
Directed by Kevin Smith
Starring Justin Long and Michael Parks
Initial Review by Jon Kissel
Kevin Smith’s an acquired taste and for all intents and purposes, seems to be a charming and introspective guy. Coming onto the cinematic scene at the same time as other hyper-loquacious indie directors like Richard Linklater and Quentin Tarantino, he spent his first ten years churning out interconnected comedies that were by turns filthy and eloquent. He also might be a prime example of the truism that a person spends their whole life creating their first thing, and then struggles to replicate it thereafter. Smith’s debut, Clerks, is great, and everything else has lived in its micro-budget shadow. This is especially true with Tusk. The last decade of Smith’s career has found him trying to break away from raunch and into genre with cop buddy comedies and cult shootouts, and Tusk is his largely unsuccessful body horror attempt.
On our recent Best of 2018 So Far podcast, I raved about The End of the Fucking World. It’s by accident that I saw what is still one of my favorite TV series of the year before I saw I Am Not a Serial Killer. These are essentially the same pieces of fiction. A teen male who is sure he’s a sociopath bides time until the inevitable moment when he makes his first kill, but he discovers what it means to follow through on those impulses and that he doesn’t have to be like the people that do so. The lesson that brain chemistry is not destiny is a powerful one that the species has had to continually remind itself of, and it’s something pitched at my wavelength due to my preference for both skepticism and liberalism. However, I Am Not a Serial Killer is no End of the Fucking World thanks to its own choices of who the villain is and what the viewer is supposed to feel about him. It doesn’t believe that sociopathy is interesting enough on its own, and needlessly spices things up with the supernatural.
When it comes to movies, I don’t have the sharp memories of childhood that most people do. An emphasis wasn’t placed on culture in my childhood and a lot of my adolescence was spent in a cold emotional shell, so I just didn’t get those kinds of revelatory cinematic experiences until I was 17 or 18. That being said, the network TV edit of The Silence of the Lambs was one of the first R-rated movies I saw, recorded late at night on a VCR. The sequel, Hannibal, was the first DVD I ever bought, and I do remember gleefully watching that on Christmas Eve 2001, to my mother’s great disappointment. The character of Hannibal Lecter and the world that Thomas Harris (author of the books) created around him has always fascinated me, and we’ve been fortunate enough to receive takes on the subject matter from directors as varied in their tastes as Michael Mann and Vincenzo Natali and in their talent levels as Ridley Scott and Brett Ratner (Ratner’s the shitty one). Jonathan Demme’s version in Silence of the Lambs is certainly the most iconic, dominating the Oscars and placing Anthony Hopkins’ Lecter continuously at the top of any Best Villain list. We just discussed another Best Picture winner in Dances With Wolves, and determined that it’s still an entertaining, if imperfect, film. Will Silence of the Lambs get a more generous sort of praise? Jon, aged 17, certainly would say so, but that kid was an idiot.
M. Night Shyamalan gets officially welcomed back into Hollywood with the massive success of Split. When a person gets the power to do anything, as Shyamalan did for several years, it’s easy to imagine how quickly things can go off the rails, like when the adaptation of a beautiful animated show is rendered unwatchable or when Mark Wahlberg is forced to ask where all the bees went. Working with tight-fisted Blumhouse Studios and their fairly brilliant economic model is a good career move for Shyamalan. They dump all these low-budget horror films on the market, and while they’re critical success is low, there’s enough of a gorehound audience to recoup the small investment. Half of the receipts from Split could fund ten to fifteen new Blumhouse films, and suddenly Shyamalan’s minting money. But is it any good? Split has equal amounts of what the director’s always been good at, as well as some new crutches that are expected from the genre, but no less ugly through his lens.
I’ll start with a question: what is the quintessential summer movie?
For me, two films come to mind—“Jurassic Park” which I saw when I was 12 and was one of those cinema experiences that make you fall in love with going to the movies. The second was “Speed,” which came out the next summer and which I think I saw at least three times in the theater and I definitely owned on VHS.
I start with this question because I first heard about “Train to Busan” about a year ago on NPR. They ran a story because “TtB” is, apparently, the quintessential Korean summer movie. It’s the highest grossing Korean film in that country’s history and, according to the NPR story a year ago, almost 1/5th of the whole South Korean population had seen the film, which is a pretty remarkable number. I was, at first, reluctant to pick another Korean film since we’ve already had “Okja” in our queue this round, but I really wanted to watch a summer movie, and so why not watch one of the most successful ones in recent years that so few in the US have seen?
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.