Tag Archives: norman reedus

Vacation

This may put me in the doghouse but I found the recent reboot of the Griswold Vacation films to be funnier than the entire original Chevy Chase series combined. The National Lampoon series is a big, clunky, unwieldy beast full of hit or miss humour, really bizarre instances and comedy that has dimmed and dated a lot since then, they’re not my favourite films and I remember fondly only for sheer nostalgia because they’d always show up on TBS Superstation back when I was a kid. This thing goes and totally does it’s own thing though and ends up being fucking hilarious from start to finish, if you have the right sense of humour that is and are open to a severely offensive set of jokes and very R rated mayhem, which is the best way to get me interested in a comedy.

Terminally nerdy Ed Helms plays Rusty Griswold, the grown up kid of Chevy Chase and Beverly D’Angelo, who also turn up for third act cameos here. Rusty wants to recreate his childhood vacation to Walley World by dragging his wife (Christina Applegate) and two dysfunctional sons (Skyler Gisondo and Steele Stebbins) on a chaotic road trip there, with everything naturally going completely wrong every step of the way. When I say it goes wrong though I mean that in every gross out, humiliating, cringey, scatological, immature sense of the word. The tone here is radically different from the old Vacation films and honestly I appreciated it, jived with it more. The screenwriters just want to make a balls out (literally), hard R, deranged comedy that happens to take place in the Griswold universe and I guess some fans couldn’t handle it.

So what’s funny about it? Well take your pick: Chris Hemsworth as a hysterically sexist cattle rancher with a ten inch cock clearly visible in his briefs, a hot-springs that turns out to be raw sewage dump filled with used needles, relentless sibling bullying, a shady truck driver (Norman Reedus in the film’s best WTF cameo) with a teddy bear hood ornament to lure kids in, a suicidal river rafting guide (Charlie Day), cows getting turned into road kill and much more. If none of that sounds like your picks the you were probably expecting something else and this isn’t gonna be your bag. This ain’t the whimsical, eccentric Vacation aesthetic from the Lampoon films, but that’s alright. My favourite joke involves the Albanian rental car Rusty procures for their trip, an impossibly inconvenient machine with a button that literally blows out all the windows and a NavGuide system that screams at them in Korean, which had me laughing so hard it hurt. Watch for fun cameos from Keegan Michael Key, Ron Livingston, Michael Pena, Regina Hall, Tim Heidecker, Colin Hanks and Leslie Mann as a grown up Audrey Griswold, married to Hemsworth and his magnum dong. This one was a huge winner for me, and while I can appreciate the hate thrown at it when compared to the original films, that didn’t bother me. If you just roll with this vision

-Nate Hill

John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns

What if there was a film out there that was so destructively evil that it had the power to end the world? (And no it’s not The Master Of Disguise). John Carpenter’s Cigarette Burns explores this in grisly, eerie fashion for one of the many varied and interesting horror features produced by Showtime’s limited Masters Of Horror run.

Norman Reedus plays a moody private investigator with a dark past hired by Udo Kier’s sinister rare film collector to track down and bring him ‘La Fin Absolut du Monde’, a fabled piece of celluloid that is apparently so disturbing to watch it sends audiences into homicidal mania and subsequently causes the end of all things. Cool, huh? It’s wicked great with two creepy central performances from Norman and Udo who just ooze cult charisma and fit well into Carpenter’s spooky palette.

I particularly enjoyed the skin crawling appearance of a ‘willowy being’ (Christopher Redman) who is supposedly some sort of celestial creature that was tortured to bring about some of the film’s cursed imagery. Reedus’s character is given a ne’er do well aura and practically radiates bad luck as we see ongoing flashbacks to a tragic relationship and sense that he’s headed purely in the wrong karmic direction in looking for this film. Kier has demented fun as the weirdo film aficionado and if you think you’ve seen everything just wait for the sight of him feeding his own bloody intestines through a film projector with a satisfied smile on his face. Yeesh. You won’t find this brought up when discussing Carpenter’s usual stuff because it’s technically a TV episode but it is feature length and does have his trademark dark suspense and macabre inventiveness all over it, and is great fun. Oh and pay attention to what the titular cigarette burns refers to because it’ll come in handy for movie trivia at the pub.

-Nate Hill

Christian Alvert’s Pandorum

I can understand that a bleak, disturbing SciFi horror like Pandorum didn’t connect well with Hollywood audiences or generate a lot of income, but it’s a shame because it weaves an intelligent, beautifully shot, truly scary dark dream of psychological paranoia, freaky ideas and tense, claustrophobic set pieces. Helmed by Christian Alvert, a German director best known for unconventional horror films, this was never going to be a flashy, familiar feeling big budget thing, which many probably didn’t expect. Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid are Payton and Bower, two astronauts who awaken on a giant derelict spaceship with severe amnesia and the unsettling feeling that their mission has gone horribly wrong. After a bit of exploring they find out just *how* wrong. Terrifying, monstrous humanoid creatures hunt any survivors through dim, clanging corridors that echo Ridley Scott’s Alien. Payton encounters two initially hostile nomads (Antje Traue and Cung Le) who he must band together with. Somewhere deep inside the ship, the reactor starts to fail. Another mentally unstable survivor (Cam Gigandet) is found by Quaid and starts to dangerously unravel. Gradually the secrets of what happened are revealed along with the reason for the presence of these creatures, which I won’t call aliens because they’re not. This is brutal, grim stuff that isn’t light watching or easy on the senses, it’s a skin crawling deep space nightmare of a film and a tough piece, no kidding. But it’s smart, tightly wound storytelling with fantastic acting (especially Quaid who rarely gets to go this bonkers crazy) and a plot that races along like some intergalactic nightmare until the final revelation, a thunderclap that lets us breathe again for the first time in over an hour. The title itself refers to a fictional psychotic disorder in which one believes the mission is cursed and becomes a delusional nut-job with destructive behaviour, the mental byproduct of extended space travel. This ties neatly into the very real dangers aboard the ship as reality shifts for these characters and their narratives become unreliable. A brilliant piece of SciFi horror filmmaking, a film that still hasn’t gotten its proper due. Get the Blu Ray, it looks fresh, crisp and darkly dazzling.

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Tough Luck

Tough Luck is one of long forgotten low budget crime drama mystery flicks that always contain the same key elements: a seductive femme fatale, a young drifter caught up in sensual intrigue, the jealous older husband/lover, all gilded by lies and the vague threat of violence, which is always inevitable. The loner here is Norman Reedus as a young grifter who comes across a travelling circus run by gypsy Armand Assante and his darkly angelic wife (the stunning Dagmara Dominczyck). He gets close to the two of them, too close to her and eventually the kind of sparks fly that often result in danger and deceit. Reedus made this same movie years prior, except it was called Dark Harbour, was set in the Pacific Northwest instead of the Oklahoma dust bowl and he starred alongside Polly Walker and Alan Rickman instead. That goes to show that the traditions and tropes of this sub-genre are as old and intrinsic as the routines in the circus Assante owns here. There’s a shifty quality to all three leads here, all seemingly unlikeable until the mournful third act plays out and we see which one really deserves our sympathy. Reedus always looks like a scrappy lost dog that’s seen a few back alley fights, he has the kind of natural magnetic charisma that you can’t fake. Assante is sometimes a long of ham in his work, but seems a bit more relaxed here and let’s the circus monkey on his shoulder do some of the talking. Dagmara is a true beauty, captivating the screen and making us really believe we’d fall under her dark spell while we’re hypnotized. Not a bad flick at all, and has some really good moments in the final act which gets quite grounded, sad and has a neat little twist.

-Nate Hill

Joe Carnahan’s Stretch

It’s a crying shame that Joe Carnahan’s Stretch got buried with marketing and now no one knows about it, because it’s a pulpy treat that really deserved to be seen on the big screen and given a bit of hooplah pre-release. In the tradition of After Hours, consistently versatile Carnahan whips up a feverish nighttime screwball comedy of errors and bizarro shenanigans that doesn’t quit pummelling the viewer with rapid fire dialogue, hedonistic spectacle and a funhouse of LA weirdos getting up to no good, including a trio of the best celebrity cameos to come around in a long time. Patrick Wilson, who continues to impress, plays a sad sack limo driver who’s life has thrown him nothing but nasty curveballs, but he gets a chance to make bank and retribution in the form of Roger Karos, a deranged billionaire masochist who could unload a monster gratuity on him at the end of the night and clear the guy’s gambling debts. It’s a devil’s proposition and a fool’s errand, and as expected, pretty much everything than can go wrong does go wrong. Karos is played by an incognito and uncredited Chris Pine, and the guy should have gotten as many awards as they could throw at him. It’s a shame he’s in hiding here and no one knows about this performance because it’s a doozy. Pine plays him as a sadistic, scotch guzzling, cocaine hoovering monster who’s certifiably insane, like a smutty LA version of the Joker who’s as likely to shake your hand as set you on fire. Wilson’s Stretch is stuck with this demon, as well as his own, and it’s the night from hell, but nothing but mirth for the audience. Orbiting the two of them are wicked supporting turns from Jessica Alba, James Badge Dale, a maniacal Ed Helms, an unrecognizable Randy Couture as a freaky Slavic limo guru, Brooklyn Decker, and insane turns from Ray Liotta,

David Hasselhoff and Norman Reedus, who play warped versions of themselves. Wilson owns the role like a spitfire, Pine goes absolutely batshit bonkers for his entire screetime, Carnahan writes and directs with sleek, stylistic panache and a flair for realistic dialogue that feels elaborate but never false. I could talk this fucker up all day and type till I get carpel, but I’ll quit here and say just go watch the thing, it’s too good to be as under-seen as it is.

-Nate Hill

Christian Alvert’s Antibodies

Christian Alvert is a wicked sharp German director who has quietly been making terrific films for years that have somehow slipped past the nets of notoriety (his SciFi horror Pandorum is one of the most underrated films of the decade). If you haven’t seen his highly disturbing, Silence of the Lambs esque psycho shocker Antibodies, you’re in for a treat. Perverted, intelligent, psychological, skin crawlingly freaky, the story unwinds in uncomfortable revelations following a gruesome discovery in an apartment by a Berlin police officer, who curiously enough, is played by a silent Norman Reedus. This turns into a raid in which prolific serial killer Gabriel Engel (a bone chilling portrayal by André Hennicke) is finally captured. After sometime, top cop Michael Martens (Wotan Wilke Möhring) runs into a series of murders that bear similarity to Engel’s Crimes, and brings the killer into the fold in consultation capacity. From there it’s a devilish madhouse of deception, sickening mind games and one cracker of a suspenseful ending. I’ll warn you: this shit ain’t pretty. There’s a lot of seriously dark stuff, thematic matter that blasts through the western taboos we find in films over here, and buckets of clinical, shudder inducing gore. If you enjoy smart horror that piles on thought provoking notions in with the carnage and asks questions along the way, you’ll dig this. 

-Nate Hill

B Movie Glory: Sand


Sand is about as tasteful and memorable as it’s title, a bland, pointless and inconsequential piece of low grade fluff that starts nowhere and ends up just about the same. Funnily enough, it attracted the attention of some fairly notable actors who show up to loiter around in a boring family melodrama that barely registers past a flatline, and wander off again without bothering to bring their character arcs to a satisfactory close. Michael Vartan is some California stud who returns home to the surfing town he grew up in only to run afoul of his nasty criminal father (Harry Dean Stanton), and two deadbeat half brothers (John Hawkes and some other dude). They’ve shown up to lay low from the cops, but instead have eyes for Vartan’s cutie pie girlfriend (Kari Wuhrur) which is where the vague trouble starts. I do mean vague, as no one really makes an effort to convince us that these characters care, let alone know about what’s going on, and any sense of real danger is stifled by lethargy. Denis Leary usually crackles with witty intensity, but not even he seems to want to play, a sorry excuse for a villain who mopes around looking like he forgot his lines and just wants to go home. Norman Reedus is wasted on a quick bit as Wuhrur’s surfer brother, and there’s equally forgettable cameos from Jon Lovitz, Emilio Estevez and Julie Delpy too, but it all goes nowhere. There isn’t even any kind of adherence to genre, no Mexican standoff, no ramp up to revenge, it just kind of drops off and leaves an absence of anything interesting in the air. Some cool Cali scenery that could be Big Sur if I remember correctly, but even then you’re better off ditching this one and going to the beach for real. 

-Nate Hill