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Hush

The world calls them trash, Remi calls them One Star Classics.

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Oculus, Mike Flanagan’s 2013 not-too-terrible film, was one I got behind, and when I realized another movie of his was hiding behind beyond generic Netflix art, it didn’t take me many months to give it a watch.

In Hush we follow a deaf-mute writer who lives in secluded woods, and who soon enough is the target of an unknown n‘er do well, imaginatively credited as «The Man». A literal hunt ensues — cross-bow and all — and for 81 minutes we get barely no dialogue in what turns out to be a tense enough story.

Co-written by Flanagan with his wife Kate Siegel (who also stars), there is a lot to admire about Hush. With a mere ten minutes of dialogue3, the plot manages to forge ahead without very little downtime or repetition. Siegel turns in a solid performance as the protagonist, as does John Gallagher, Jr. — the only person attached with much of a rap-sheet1 — among a cast of four2. Why is he going after the writer? Who knows! There are hints of human hunting being a sport for him, so I suppose that is reason enough.

So yes, Hush is a bit of a minimalist movie, and we never even leave the grounds of the writer’s house. It makes sense, really. Flanagan’s stature wasn’t great at the time of filming, and making somewhat of an artsy thriller on a small scale is a good way to show your chops, if you get it right. For the most part it works, though things are a bit rough around the edges at time. The short run time could probably have stood to be cut down another ten minutes, if only to get rid off some unfinished-feeling scenes. This was clearly shot with some serious time constraints.

The film did the trick for Flanagan, and he is now close to hitting the big time. Stephen King has proclaimed his admiration for both Hush and Oculus — this is indeed a King-esque story — and the two are set to collaborate on an adaptation of Gerald’s Game. Furthermore, Flanagan is making The Haunting of Hill House for Netflix (make sure to check out Robert Wise’s 1963 version, The Haunting, too) and I Know What You Did Last Summer for the big screen (hey, check that teen classic out, too!), putting the director firmly in the «prolific» category.

As for Hush, it is well worth the watch. Get past the ridiculous Netflix art, and you get a decent thriller with a clever conclusion. Could certain parts have been shaved off? Probably — the aforementioned scenes are a bit jarring, and they somewhat halt an otherwise nice flow.

But hey, you’ve already paid for the movie, so there are few reasons not to give Hush a chance. It is an enjoyable, almost old-fashioned, plot-based thriller, and I very much mean that as a compliment.

1 He received third billing in both 10 Cloverfield Lane and The Newsroom.

2 Five if you count someone who appears on FaceTime for 15 seconds.

3 Initially there was a plan to have no dialogue. I kinda wished they had gone that route, as it if nothing else would have been a fascinating watch.

Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me

Twin Peaks season three is upon us, and we are ready to hit it like salt on a slug! We kick it off by watching the prequel movie, Fire Walk With Me.

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A week away from Twin Peaks season three, and people are getting nervous. Any footage we’ve seen so far—which is not a lot—has looked very little like the quirky, eerie TV show. Instead, the experimental, dark-as-tar prequel movie, Fire Walk With Me, seems to be the proper point of reference.

It was not met with a lot of sympathies in 1992, the film. Here people had expected a resolve to Dale Cooper’s descent into the Black Lodge1, as opposed to the origins story of the Twin Peaks mythology we received. Cooper was rarely seen in the film, not because he was stuck in some in-between universe, but because Kyle MacLachlan only reluctantly signed on to make what charitably could be described as an extended appearance.2

Yet… I don’t think this is a bad movie, be it Twin Peaks or otherwise. It might be a jarring first watch, but give Fire Walk With Me another chance, and you’ll find something closer to the TV show. Yes, it’s all distorted behind a bizarre filter, but squint your eyes and tilt your head and you’ll see it. If nothing else it is a beautiful looking film.

The transition will be easier to wrap your head around if you don’t approach it as a Dale Cooper film, but rather a Laura and Leland Palmer story. Both Sheryl Lee and Ray Wise give A-grade performances, and Lee reportedly lost herself so far into her character that it took her years to recover from it.

In form and tone, Fire Walk With Me feels like more like Lynch’s Mulholland Drive than the show. It sort of make sense, with Mulholland Drive being based on a Twin Peaks spin-off idea3. There are also those who claim the movie is set in the Twin Peaks universe, which might seem like a fan fantasy until you realize that, for a split second, Laura Palmer and Ronette Pulaski make an appearance in the film. True story. In what likely could be another Black Lodge waiting room.4

Additionally, the main character, Betty (portrayed by Naomi Watts), shares names with Cooper’s never-seen Twin Peaks secretary. With Watts now set to appear in season three… Well, who knows?!

Back on track…

It’s a bleak, dark movie, Fire Walk With Me, with no cherry pie or coffee in sight. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as it does the job of telling the story Lynch wanted to tell. For the bigger picture, that was what Twin Peaks needed, and this is once again just a piece of the puzzle.

Season three starts a week from now. I will speculate and say the show will end up somewhere between the movie and previous season in tone. Or maybe it’ll be completely different. We will know soon enough, and you’ll be delighted to hear we will follow the show with weekly recaps, right here, at your reliable, friendly site, One Star Classics!

1 I, as many, don’t actually think that is where he ended up, and what we have seen up until now is the referenced waiting room.

2 He, as many, felt Lynch had abandoned the show after Palmer’s killer was revealed. Hard to argue that one.

3 Had the movie not bombed, we would have seen plenty of these.

4 Actually, is this the waiting room and where Cooper is stuck the Black Lodge? At least Club Silencio has entertainment, as opposed to the backward talking Man From Another Place.

Shaun of the Dead

In Every Movie Ever Remi makes the poor decision of watching every movie in a given series. This time: the first entry in the Three Flavours Cornetto series, while waiting for Edgar Wright’s next movie, Baby Driver.

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I suppose my opinions on Shaun of the Dead and the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy run somewhat contrary to many. I consider this first installment to be the weakest of the series, not so much because it’s a bad or even mediocre movie, but because the zombie apocalypse genre tends to be limiting.1 You can do great things within it, but the boundaries are pretty well set.

Co-written by Edgar Wright and Sean Pegg, and starring Pegg and Nick Frost, Shaun is a Spaced reunion of sorts.2 The UK television show ran for two seasons and gained a cult-following for its surreal, pop-culture driven humor. Shaun maintains a lot of the latter—Romero references alongside obscure-ish influences3 are plentiful—but it is both more polished and more accessible than its predecessor.

So don’t get me wrong: Shaun is certainly a good zombie movie. It’s funny without being a parody, and the action is right up there with Romero’s … of the Dead series.

From a technical perspective, too, it holds high standards. There are some impressive tracking shots, and the use of colors makes for a stylish looking film. The acting is top notch, and only a horrible human being would not appreciate Bill Nighy’s appearance.

Shaun might in some ways be better than many zombie movies of yore, but good of a ride as it is, it is still a predictable one. I love the actors and the dialogue, and I love the cinematography, but as a love letter to old horror flicks, it might be just a bit too gushy. The second half in particular feels like it runs on autopilot.

The two other entries in the trilogy — Hot Fuzz and The World’s End — add more twists to their formulas and are better for it. Not that everyone shouldn’t watch and appreciate Shaun4, mind you. It’s an enjoyable movie, and a tasty amuse-bouche for what’s to come.

1 Now granted, you have stuff like iZombie, but I’d argue that is more of a zombie themed cop-drama-comedy.

2 Jessica Hynes makes a (too) short (of an) appearance, also.

3 The music sounds like something out of a Fulci film, for example.

4 Or Spaced for that matter.

Handsome: A Netflix Mystery Movie

The world calls them trash, Remi calls them One Star Classics.

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I mostly know Jeff Garlin from Curb Your Enthusiasm and Arrested Development, though I believe it was This American Life where I was told he is a «comedian’s comedian». I can see that; the guy has one hell of a comedic presence.

How then, does a movie he co-writes, directs, and star in fare? I suppose it depends on your point of view…

Handsome is not a movie for everyone. It’s a noir-ish murder mystery, not particularly well written or directed. Granted, it’s not a shocker to see a great comedian unable to carry over their craft to a broader medium—Norm Macdonald has repeatedly proven that—but my hopes were high.

It does kind of work for me. Kind of. Because there is a funny backbone here, and the cast is great.

Co-starring Natasha Lyonne — mentioned on this site for her turn in Madhouse — and Amy Sedaris, you’re pretty much guaranteed to get some on-screen shenanigans. But it is Steven Weber who takes it all home.1 Playing a narcissistic actor who (revealed in the first scene) is the killer, he manages to ham it up so even the biggest hater will get a few chuckles out of it.

That aside, if you don’t like Garlin’s brand of humor, you probably won‘t get much more to find in Handsome. It is in no way a great, or even particularly good, movie. You subjectively can get some entertainment out of it, if you like this kind of thing, the Garlin-esque type humor. Otherwise, you probably will be bored.

A sequel is being hinted at, and I assume Netflix—yes, it’s a Netflix exclusive—will go for it, should enough people watch the thing. It’s not a high budget affair, and they did, after all, sign another four movie deal with Adam Sandler. The bar isn’t set particularly high.

I laughed at/with Handsome, and I’m pretty sure any Curb fan will enjoy the film, too.

1 Per usual!

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

In Things you should have watched, but for whatever reason you decided not to Remi shames you into watching movies you already should have watched.

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Is it I slept bad or I slept badly? My take: I didn’t sleep well. Hey, it’s likely the question most people will ponder after watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

Anyway! I was going to lead in with, had there not been a Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, there would not have been a Nice Guys, but that is probably not entirely true. See, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang royally bombed at the box office, bringing in a mere $5 million dollars—Robert Downey, Jr. uses more on hair dye these days—and it was up in the air if Shane Black was ever to direct a movie again.1

Here we are, though, and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is, as I mentioned in my Nice Guys write-up, one of my all time faves. The two movies are nigh identical in form, yet still manage to feel different enough to come off as companion pieces, as opposed to rehash.

The foundation of both follow two investigators caught up in a typical noir murder case, with a burgeoning friendship ready to bloom. Yes, the bromance is the backbone here in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, too, right alongside the noir influences present from the first shot. (A loving reference to Sunset Blvd.) Darker undertones are a given, but really… This is Shane Black. Laughter will ensue!

And if general noir surrounds a protagonist with situations out of their control, then Kiss Kiss Bang Bang takes that stereotype, embraces it snuggly, and adds its own twist to it. The route petty criminal Downey Jr. takes to become an actor who gets paired up with Val Kilmer’s PI, Gay Perry, for research? Talk about some inspired scripting and acting. By the time they’re knee-deep in a murder investigation—and a cover-up, natch—you won’t be entirely sure how you arrived there, but you will have enjoyed the ride.

The gallery of characters… What a set of pros! Not only does Corbin Bernsen do his Corbin Bernsen thing, we also get the great Michelle Monaghan as the prerequisite femme fatale. Of course, even when Shane Black has all the ingredients for a noir, he will still go all Great British Baking Show on it, mixing everything up, making sure Monaghan is not a trope. Her and Downey’s chemistry takes second place only to the aforementioned bromance here, and the trio’s relationship is truly both funny and likable.

Which one is the better movie, then? Kiss Kiss Bang Bang or The Nice Guys? That’s hard to say; the latter is grittier, where the former is slicker, and the setting might well be what will sell you on which one to pick. LA in the 70’s or LA in the early oughties? It’s a hard choice, and you owe yourself (and me) to watch both. Multiple times. Then either make your mind up or write long meditations on it like I’m doing right now. Either way, you’ll come off as a better person than those who haven’t watched both.

1 Of course, the domino bricks started falling here: Downey went to Iron Man, where he got Black to direct the third movie of the trilogy. I assume Iron Man, and not Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, is the reason we saw The Nice Guys.