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Column Fri Oct 09 2015

Pan, Freeheld, He Named Me Malala, Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead, Brand: A Second Coming, Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery, Knock Knock, Yakuza Apocalypse & Deathgasm

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Pan

"I don't give a shit where the stuff I loves comes from; I just love the stuff I love."
—Patton Oswalt

People (and I'll include critics in that broad category) love to complain about remakes and reboots and re-imaginings of their favorite films series, and for every shitty, unnecessary redo, you can usually find one that doesn't hurt as much to watch and might even be considered very watchable. But the trend that has eaten away at me from under the skin outward is this incessant need to take a well-established (perhaps even beloved) tale from films, books, plays, wherever and craft a new story about what happened just before all the good stuff happened. Some might call these origin stories, and I guess that's what they are, but not always. Whatever the framework, the practice almost never succeeds at adding any value to the rich story originally told.

In so many instances, revealing the origins of an iconic character(s) — whether it's Leatherface or the alien from Alien or, in this case, Peter Pan — strips the first telling of most of its magic and intrigue. Leaving questions and details unexplored in author J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan makes it seem like Peter has just always been a boy — he's perpetually a kid, and that's wonderful in so many ways. But in Jason Fuchs' adaptation Pan, directed by Joe Wright (Atonement, Hanna, Anna Karenina), we're forced endure a glum origin story that goes from Peter's mother (Amanda Seyfried) leaving her infant at the doorstep of an orphanage to be tortured by the nuns who run the place, to many of the orphans (including Peter, played by Levi Miller) getting kidnapped by sky pirates who fly their vessels above the clouds on the way to Neverland, which looks a lot like the pit mine set at the opening of Mad Max: Fury Road, where stolen children are put to work looking for fairy dust.

The pirates are led by Blackbeard (Hugh Jackman), who is vicious and in his third year of acting-to-the-back-row school. (Drinking game: every time Jackman extends his arms in the classic rock star Jesus Christ pose, take a shot — you'll be dead before the second hour starts.) Blackbeard wants the dust because it keeps him young. Also groveling and digging in the mud and stone for dust are a young adventurer named James Hook (Garrett Hedlund from TRON: Legacy and Inside Llewyn Davis) and a young Sam Smiegel (Adeel Akhtar), both of whom are basically good guys and eager to help Peter when he's framed for trying to steal fairy dust and sentenced to die. But when Blackbeard pushes him off a high plank to certain death, Peter suddenly discovers he can fly; he just can't control when he flies.

It turns out that an ancient prophecy says that the tribe that lives in the jungle outside of Blackbird's Neverland property will be saved by a flying boy (what a coinkydink), which scares the pirate since he's heard that there's a secret fairy hiding place housing an unlimited supply of dust that he very much would like to plunder. Peter and his pals escape and run into Tiger Lily (Rooney Mara), who is no longer a "native" princess, but more of generic ethnicity. As the film goes on, pieces appear to fall into place in Peter's life (aka, they set up the real Peter Pan story). He finds out what happened to his mother and why she left him, who is father is, and the secret location of the fairly hideout. Even why he is called Peter Pan is explaining in the most mind-alteringly dull way possible.

There are references to crocodiles, mermaids, we even get a glimpse of Tinkerbell, and most of these inserts are largely free of anything imaginative or interesting. The thought of turning Hook into an Indiana Jones type (complete with the hat) with the voice of Tom Waits borders on ludicrous. The best thing one can say about Pan is that young Levi Miller is convincing as a child, and Mara looks a goth girl but wearing lots of color, who I totally would have tried to date in college. The most terrifying element of the story is that it ends with Hook and Peter still friends rather than bitter enemies, implying that [deep breath] there's more of this story to tell. If you give this subpar film your money, the only thing that's going to happen is someone will make another; you have no one but yourself to blame.

Freeheld

Fresh off her Oscar win earlier this year for Still Alice, Julianne Moore returns with yet another riveting performance trapped in a film that doesn't quite provide the best framework for a story that really deserves it. In based-on-a-true-story Freeheld, Moore plays Laurel Hester, a revered New Jersey detective who also happens to be a lesbian with zero skills in the dating world. She has opted to keep her private life exceedingly private, even from her partner Dane Wells (Michael Shannon, playing the polar opposite character than he does in the current 99 Homes). But one day, Laurel meets Stacie Andree (Ellen Page), and they become a fantastically compatible couple, eventually moving in to together in a lovely suburban home.

The women file for domestic partnership (still a new process at the time), but when Laurel's doctors discover she has cancer and will likely die from it, she discovers that because she and Stacie aren't legally married, her police pension will not go to her, and Stacie likely won't be able to keep the home they built together. Written by Ron Nyswaner (Philadelphia), Freeheld is absolutely a film about social justice and protests attempting to right a great wrong. But at its core, the film is about these two reluctant activists and how much they love each other. There were other ways to get Stacie that pension (Laurel could have married any man, who in turn could give Stacie the pension money), but she didn't want to skirt the system; she wanted to destroy it in its current form before she died.

Steve Carell makes an unexpected appearance as New York lawyer/activist Steven Goldstein, and goes just a couple of notches beyond where he needs to, coming dangerously close to being a stereotype. I did like the performance by Josh Charles as county official Bryan Kelder, who is one of the people who voted against the pension going to Stacie, but ultimately is the first to change his stance for reasons that aren't as good-hearted as one might like. But the real hero of the day is Shannon, playing Wells like a guy who simply believes in what is right, no matter his personal views on gay marriage or the town's tradition.

Based on the far superior, 2007 Oscar-winning documentary short of the same name, Freeheld is directed by Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas, Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist), and he has a real eye for capturing details that tell us a great deal about characters. The problem lies in his approach to the struggle; it feels designed and crafted to make us feel one way and one way only, which I suppose in another way of saying it feels manipulative. Speeches from both sides of the debate sound canned and generic. Anytime the humanity is stripped away from the story, the film suffers. Moore and Page are splendid here, playing their parts with a degree of quiet dignity that is absolutely appropriate. But their work is couched in a movie that feels forced and too impressed with its own message, making the outcome seem all the more predetermined.

Freeheld is far from terrible; I'm sure you could watch it, cry through it, make it through to the ending and feel pretty good about the world, especially in light of the Supreme Court's decision on nationwide marriage equality. But Freeheld is about capturing a small moment in gay history that might have otherwise been forgotten. This story absolutely deserves to be told and held in high regard, but I'm not sure this version of that story is the best one that could have been produced. Something is off. Maybe it does boil down to Carell's abysmal work (his calling everyone "honey" seems like an act of aggression more than affection), but there's something more in many of the portrayals that feels generalized and disingenuous. The film opens today in Chicago at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.

He Named Me Malala

If you somehow didn't hear the story when it happened, you've probably heard it recently. Three years ago, 15-year-old Pakistani Malala Yousafzai was targeted by the Taliban for speaking out in favor of education for girls (which the Taliban forbade) and was subsequently shot in the head on the bus on her way home from school. Somehow surviving, she and her family moved to the UK where Malala could continue her studies as well as her advocacy work for girls' education all over the world. For her work, she recently was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

Shortly after her move to England, filmmaker Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, Waiting for Superman) began chronicling both her advocacy work and her home life, with her parents and her two brothers. The resulting He Named Me Malala is an interesting glimpse that doesn't pretend to paint a complete portrait, but gives us both the young girl and the burgeoning woman who is attempting to campaign for this enormous mission. Subsequently, it also forces the audience to consider how we treat young girls differently than boys in our society and everyday interactions.

The title of the film comes from an ancient story about a girl named Malala who also fought for freedoms for women and was killed for her beliefs. The fact that her father, Zia, named her after this hero fills him with both pride and a certain amount of guilt for allowing her to fight for her cause when she was so young, making her a target. It's astonishing to hear Malala say that she holds not malice toward the person who shot her, because she understands that he's part of a belief system that warps the mind.

Malala has an abundance of positive energy, courage and intelligence. She's also a girl that gets caught at one point looking at shirtless images of her favorite male athletes on the internet. She's an extraordinary contradiction that He Named Me Malala captures most of the time. The film doesn't shy away from controversies surrounding her, including questions about who wrote her book about the shooting or if she is, in fact, a good influence and role model for girls (you can probably guess who says she isn't). She isn't afraid to meet world leaders and tell them succinctly and forcefully what they need to do differently to improve the world (she went after President Obama about drone strikes).

My biggest complaint about He Called Me Malala is that it feels incomplete because clearly this young woman has a lot more left to happen to her. Guggenheim probably thinks she might be worth a follow-up doc, and he's likely correct. The film is equally informative and uplifting, and while it's not exactly an example of traditional news gathering — it feels more like a motivational film at times — but it is meant to pull us out of our sofa-based activism and do something even remotely as positive as Malala. The film opens today in Chicago at the Landmark Century Center Cinema.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead: The Story of the National Lampoon

It's rare that you can ever zero in on the turning point of any cultural upheaval, but it seems like a fairly straight line connecting today's R-rated comedy landscape and improv-heavy moviemaking and the parody antics of the National Lampoon magazine and later live shows and movies. And while there's probably a longer and more in-depth version of this story still left to be told, director Douglas (Hey Bartender) Tirola's Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead hits most of the key moments in the National Lampoon legacy, from its Harvard birthplace to its Hollywood-bound talent like John Belushi, Chevy Chase, and even John Hughes (one of his first writing gigs was National Lampoon's Vacation).

The film primarily focuses on the magazine's lifespan and all that it spawned and those that it influenced. The all-star roster of new interviews is impressive — Judd Apatow, John Goodman, Ivan Reitman, even Billy Bob Thornton — and all give compelling testimonial about the impact the print edition of Lampoon had on their younger lives. And the movie certainly has fun connecting the comedy dots, as the National Lampoon branched out into records and live shows — essentially pillaging talent like Belushi, Harold Ramis, Gilda Radner, Christopher Guest and Bill Murray from Chicago's Second City. In a perfect act of karma years later, "Saturday Night Live" did the same thing to the Lampoon improv troupe when creating its first cast.

But any comedy nerd knows these facts already. More purely informative is the behind-the-scenes look at the history of the magazine, which started as visual nightmare of articles and comedy writing before editors Doug Kenney and Henry Beard fired their art directing team and listened to Michael Gross, who advised the inexperienced team that for the parodies to be funny they had to look and feel like the actual ads, articles and cartoons found in the magazines they were next to on the newsstand. It was a bold, unprecedented turn that worked. They also discovered early on that featuring a whole lot of T&A on the cover and in the publication created a windfall of loyal readers.

I'm sure the interviews with former Lampoon staffers only scratches the surface of just how chaotic and psychotic things must have been on a daily basis in those offices. Writers like P.J. O'Rourke, later "SNL" head writer Michael O'Donoghue, Mike Reiss, and key writer on "The Simpsons" Al Jean all made key contributions to the success of the magazine, and I literally could have watched hours of just page stills from classic issues. Above all else, the film is funny from top to bottom, from the utterly inappropriate content of issue after issue to the song parodies and improv of the Lampoon stage show, to the incredible stories of the work that went into the first films (the movie primarily focuses on Animal House, Vacation and Caddyshack, which is not technically a Lampoon movie, but it was produced by Doug Kenney, as were the other films, so it counts).

People may not realize just what an absolute brand "National Lampoon" was in the '70s and early '80s, but there was a time that anything that brandished that name was a license to print money. But like all things that top their respective worlds, Lampoon stretched its talent and resources too thin, egos began to inflate, money made people greedy and feel underappreciated, and the whole empire collapsed unceremoniously. Director Tirola doesn't focus as much on the downfall years of National Lampoon, and it might have made for a telling and necessary cautionary tale if he had. Certainly the demise of Kenney serves that purpose, and when we get to that point in the film, Chevy Chase contributes one of the most moving tributes to his friend that you can imagine.

Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead makes its point and its case that National Lampoon wasn't just a beloved publication; it was the center and launching point of a new, post-Vietnam War style of comedy that was cynical, perverted, aware, edgy, observant, and critical of anyone in power. It saw the way journalism and advertising manipulated people, and it used the same tools to make them laugh. The film is an endless parade of some of the funniest writing and creativity you'll likely ever be exposed to, and if you don't spend most of the time watching it laughing your backside off, you're probably allergic to smiling. The film opens today in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre.

Brand: A Second Coming

Going into SXSW Film Festival's big opening night film Brand: A Second Coming, I knew a great deal about the life and career of subject Russell Brand both prior to his Hollywood film career and, more recently, when he all but dropped out of the entertainment field completely after his FX show "Brand X" went off the air. Still, knowing as much as I did about the man, there are many instances and revelations in Brand that took me by surprise. In the section of the film that deals with what he's up to right now, including his popular YouTube series "The Trews," which deconstructs the media and news with a dangerously sharp scalpel, I was unaware that he had foregone acting and stand-up to put all of his energy into this project.

Brand traces the comedian/actor/activist's life from childhood — with a loving mother and a shifty father — through his schooling, days of being a junkie, MTV personality in the UK, to his infamous job hosting the MTV Music Video Awards, during which he referred to George W. Bush as a "retarded cowboy." There are as many examples of Brand self-promoting in order to become more famous as there are instances when he is clearly sabotaging his career, and both practices are equally fascinating.

Director Ondi Timoner, who has a long history of profiling visionary men who are also perceived by some as mental (in such films as Dig!, We Live In Public and Cool It), immersed herself in Brand's world for about two years, and for the most part he seems comfortable with her presence in his life. Timoner was the sixth director in as many years to take on the project, so not all of the footage used in the film was shot by her and her team, but the assembly of the material is fantastic, funny and provocative. Brand covers some of the more obvious highlights of its subject's life, including his brief marriage to Katy Perry, his legendary encounter with the morning team of MSNBC, and a collection of great moments from his one-man show Messiah Complex.

I struggled a bit to decide if I thought the film was too much of an ego-stroke to Brand, and while I think director Timoner certainly has an affection for her subject, there are just too many moments when he seems at odds with her continuing to film to allow me to think she's simply producing an informercial for Brand. I can't even imagine what it must be like to shoot a film about a man who is used to walking in a room and owning it almost immediately, either because he turns on the charm or because he simply talks so fast and loud that no one else gets a word in edgewise. In the end, what comes through about Brand is how much of his humor is based on intelligence, wit and a mind that moves at about the same speed as a hummingbird's wings.

What's most distressing among Brand's revelations is the way Brand is chided (particularly in his homeland) for being so outspoken on income inequality, climate change, corporate greed, the government, and the mass media. The well-read gentleman genuinely seems like one of the few figures in popular entertainment that is qualified to discuss these subjects, but that doesn't make it any less shocking (or thrilling) when he starts discussing the possibility of revolution in the UK. It may be difficult for some to take Brand seriously because of the way he dresses or frequently swears or because of his admitted addictions to drugs and sex. But it's those same qualities that make him more identifiable to his legions of fans. The arguments that he has no right talking about poverty when he himself has so much money are covered a great deal in the film, and Timoner does a nice job balancing out the story of a spoiled actor with that of a man who is generous with his time and money.

The harder part for me to buy is that the clearly narcissistic Brand had any issues with being filmed or with the resulting documentary. The fact that he cancelled his appearance at the SXSW premiere of the film at the last minute is something of a non-story; Brand did not attempt to have the film pulled or otherwise stop it from playing in Austin. In fact, in his statement explaining his absence from the festival, he praised Timoner's artistry. He simply would have felt insanely uncomfortable publicly watching this sometimes-troubling self examination play out, which is completely understandable.

Brand is no puff piece; it's a hard, nervy look at a man who can stand up to such examination. It's been asked many ways, but seeing Brand makes me wonder, would we know a savior today if he dropped down in our midst? I'm not saying that Russell Brand is that guy, but if he were and he arrived in the typical Brand package, would we listen? Watching the film reminds us how much of his on- and off-stage work is impressive and worthy of praise rather than derision. More importantly, I can't wait to see where he goes next.

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery

I've seen more than my fair share of documentaries about artists, both living and dead, but few reach the levels of fascination and intrigue than this new film from director Arne Birkenstock on the notorious forger Wolfgang Beltracchi. His specialty was not in re-creating famous works of art, but producing "lost" works by both legendary and mid-level artists of the early and mid-20th century that, according to his fiction, have been rumored to exist but have never been photographed or otherwise documented to any degree.

Beltracchi: The Art of Forgery follows this man, and we're torn as to what impresses us most — his skills as an artist or research and work he puts into forging the lie. He selects old canvases and slightly beaten-up frames, creates the paints from hand-ground sources, and even finds ways of adding dust and dirt from the region where the painting was supposedly created or discovered. He and his charming wife Helene (a perfectly lovely couple by any definition) never sell the paintings directly but manage to find a third party to impart the work and backstory, taking it to the art-collection world and selling for millions of dollars.

As he points out early on in the film, he never commits a crime until he signs the finished painting with the name of a dead artist, and Beltracchi makes it perfectly clear that some of his forgeries are hanging in the world's great museums, with only a handful having been discovered. The implications are staggering, but the fact that these wealthy collectors are so desperate to own a lost piece of history makes them the easiest target for this long con. It probably will only make you more despondent to know that Beltracchi usually finishes his forgeries in a matter of days.

The film also spends a bit of time exploring Beltracchi as an original artist as well, although admittedly, that section is a little less interesting and probably needed to be included to get access to the rest of the far more interesting story. His ability to ape the style of some of the finest and most revered artists of the last 100 years goes beyond impressive, but his accounts of the stories behind the paintings are told with humility and a bit of shrugging about why people are so bent out of shape about his crimes.

I especially enjoyed hearing testimony from private art collectors who were swindled, but still kept the forgery as a conversation piece — naturally moving it from a high-profile living room display to a secondary bathroom. The Art of Forgery pulls you gently into Beltracchi's quiet life, but holds you captive with the quality of his work and the ease at which he got away with it for 40-some years. The film opens today in Chicago for a one-week run at Facets Cinémathèque.

Knock Knock

While the world waited for the official release of director Eli Roth's still-in-theaters Green Inferno, Roth went ahead and made another movie that presents an alternate take on the home invasion film. This time around, the invaders are invited in and initially embraced by their victim. In the case of Knock Knock, the victim is Evan Webber (Keanu Reeves), an architect, husband and father of two, who is alone in his vast, immaculately decorated (largely with his wife's sculptures) home. His wife and kids have left for a little weekend vacation while he is preparing to work. Then, in the middle of a torrential rain storm comes a knock on the door.

Two beautiful, dripping wet co-eds (Green Inferno star Lorenza Izzo as Genesis, and Ana de Armas as Bel) arrive looking for a party. They realized that the cab they were in dropped them at the wrong house, and simply want a working phone to call a new car to come get them. Webber invites them in, gives them towels and orders them a car. The girls seems to have mastered the art of pushing things just a little too far. They find excuses to stroke Evan's arm, compliment his physique, and promote the idea of free and open expressions of physical pleasure. Evan is able to fend them off for a time, but these young women are just too persuasive, and before long, the threesome of the century is happening.

Not surprisingly, the girls' true nature is more front and center in the clear light of day. Evan wakes up to a semi-trashed house, and the girls seem less intent on pleasing their new conquest and more about fucking with him while vandalizing his home. He eventually hustles them out of his place, gives them a ride somewhere far away, and heads back home to work. After a few hours, he hears a noise and nothing is the same again.

If some parts of this sound remarkably like director Peter S. Traynor's 1977 Death Game or Michael Haneke's Funny Games (either version), you aren't far off the mark. The girls even dream up a maniacal gameshow to torture Evan with as its only contestant. Knock Knock isn't strictly a horror film by conventional standards, but the two women combined certainly are a type of invading force into Evan's life. One could make a case that the film also borrows from Fatal Attraction, as a way of urging men not to simply use and throw away pretty young women just because you can. I don't get a real sense that Roth and his co-writers Guillermo Amoedo and Nicolás López (Green Inferno, Aftershock) were going for that interpretation, but that doesn't mean it isn't there.

This is an entirely different manner of performance than we've seen from Reeves. He begins the film as a genuinely happy family man (it's Father's Day, so everyone is being extra nice to him) and he quickly devolves into a prisoner and victim in his own home, who can't seem to catch a break while being tortured and toyed with by these women. He screams and struggles and pleads to be released from their clutches, and I can't imagine too many other mainstream actors willing to place himself in the position Reeves does. He's powerless to resist their acts of violence and sex, to the point where rape becomes a real factor in this film, just not the kind you're used to seeing on screen. That alone is a fairly powerful approach to this material.

There comes a point in the third act where Knock Knock and its victimizers simply run out of steam, and things become a waiting game to get to the end. I don't think there are too many surprises about how the story ends, and when the girls subject Reeves to the game show setting, things go from inventive to just plain silly. The film is largely lacking in genuine tension or drama, but it doesn't necessarily need that to function and succeed as a thriller.

As a pure acting exercise, Reeves, Izzo, and De Armas all deliver strong performances, and I especially liked the opening seduction and avoidance dance that the three do. It's funny, it's masterfully executed, and it's often quite inventive — all three often the hallmarks of most of Roth's work. In Knock Knock, the laughs and terror move along the same thin line, and you are often caught unprepared when one or both of the girls steps into more dangerous territory. It's not entirely clear whether Roth and company meant this film to be a cautionary tale or just an adventure in various forms of misconduct, but I'm guessing he's striving to give us both. And for much of the time, he gets us most of the way there.

Yakuza Apocalypse

With nearly 100 screen and television credits to his name, Japan's prolific Takashi Miike is still cranking out come of the most extreme examples of sensory overload, mash-up cinema the world has ever seen. He's capable of producing films that feel like a violent blur (Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q and the Dead or Alive series) in the name year as quieter, more haunting works (Audition, 13 Assassins). The quality of his output is often a mixed bag, and while many of his earlier works seem to always found an outlet (and audience) in America, lately that hasn't been the case. Still, when one sneaks through customs, it's likely worth a viewing, if only to confirm that Miike hasn't lost his bloody edge.

Yakuza Apocalypse will not go down as one of the master's better works, but diehards will likely still find a great deal to cheer about. In addition to its Yakuza base coat, Miike has layered on elements of Japan's kaiju fascination, vampire stories (seemingly lifted directly from Guillermo del Toro's TV series "The Strain"), dark comedy, spaghetti Westerns, and of course, a little bit of samurai swordplay. There's a great opening sequence that reveals the truth about an older yakuza boss (Lily Franky) — that he is an undead being who feeds on blood. He keeps the members of the community he rules over happy with protection and a kind word, but he also keeps a stash of prisoners in his basement as a food supply. But other than that, he seems like a good guy, except that he doesn't last long in the film, much to its detriment.

More vampires make their way into town, some are more violent and uncontrollable than others; one speaks English and dresses like a man of the cloth. It's all a bit fuzzy. And speaking of fuzzy, there's a way-too-long (both as an action sequence and comedy bit) fight sequence near the end of the film involving a velour frog mascot. Martial arts fans should keep their eyes open for an appearance by Yayan Ruhian, who played Mad Dog in the two The Raid movies; he's largely wasted in Yakuza Apocalypse, but I'm glad he's getting work outside of Indonesia. The movie is wildly inconsistent, tragically paced, often flat-out dull, with flashes of infrequent brilliance — sadly not quite enough to recommend it to anyone outside of hardcore Miike admirers, who understand that sometimes the output of a mad genius can sometimes be more maddening than genius. The film opens today in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Deathgasm

For as long as recorded history, two things that have always gone together are heavy metal music and devil worship, and I think we're a better world because of that unholy alliance. In the New Zealand horror-comedy Deathgasm, young Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is something of a metal geek who stumbles upon mysterious sheet music with his new friend Zakk (James Blake) that's in the possession of a reclusive one-time metal hero living in a nearby town. The problem is, a death cult is also looking for this music, and is leaving a trail of bodies behind as it looks for it.

Brodie as his newly formed band (called Deathgasm, which includes Zakk) painstakingly rehearse the piece until they finally get it right and unknowingly unleash the power of an Aeloth, The Blind One, a nasty ancient demon that ends up turning a great deal of the townsfolk into possessed creatures, ripping out their own eyes and intent on killing the remaining living. But if Aeloth actually fully returns to Earth, the fabric of existence is in danger, so the band members and Brodie's crush Medina (Kimberly Crossman) set out to defend the planet.

As one might expect from a first-time feature from a visual effects expert, writer-director James Lei Howden makes Deathgasm into a cartoonishly violent affair, which takes the edge off some truly nasty bits of largely practical gore sequences. The film is paced quite nicely and never drags as it flies through its story of outcasts battling an army of (now possessed) regular types and religious zealots that Brodie & Co. are more than willing to murder. I should also mention that the music is great, by a host of bands I've never heard of but which completely fit in and set the tone for this twisted little work of the devil.

Deathgasm isn't a classic piece of horror cinema, but it is a fitting fantasy about the kind of revenge a victim of bullying might wish to enact upon his oppressors. It's great midnight fare, especially appropriate for the weeks leading up to Halloween. In fact, the film will play in Chicago at the Music Box Theatre for midnight screenings this Friday and Saturday night.

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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A/C is the arts and culture section of Gapers Block, covering the many forms of expression on display in Chicago. More...
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