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My Letterboxd reviews of House of 1000 Corpses, Elysium, The Guest, Electric Boogaloo, and Year of the Dragon

Rounding up my latest movie thoughts on Letterboxd. First, House of 1000 Corpses:

Whatever you can say about Rob Zombie, you can’t say he’s not a trier. But this, his first directorial effort after a music career soaked in horror fandom and imagery, well, it’s too self-conscious about its own recognition of the genre’s tropes to be as fun as it should be, and not nearly as deranged and affecting as the classics it’s blatantly homaging. The clusterfuck pile-on ending, too calculatedly crazy, is case in point. Still, at least he shows some visual flair, and an understanding of what makes a memorable shot.

Before Chappie, I caught up with Elysium:

Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his visually impressive but narratively hollow District 9 takes those two distinct elements to their extremes: it really looks the part (all credit to the practical and CGI effects teams) but the plot is just one heavy-handed metaphor after another. What a disappointment.

I really enjoyed The Guest:

“Not what I expected it to be” is The Guest in a nutshell. Adam Wingard’s follow-up to his clever but flawed You’re Next is a genre-bending thrill ride that pays tribute to the wild frontiers of ’80s exploitation cinema without lazily repeating its tropes and style. To say any more would be to spoil all the fun.

Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films is a fun ride:

Mark Hartley’s documentary tribute to the Cannon oeuvre and the Golan-Globus production partnership is breathless in pace – almost literally so, with some of the edits between talking heads cut a little too close for my liking. In hindsight, that could be a deliberate nod to Menahem Golan’s notorious knack with the splicer, but it’s one of a handful of niggling doubts that keep this below the level of his excellent Ozploitation retrospective Not Quite Hollywood. Another is that it feels like, despite the crazy tales it tells of the Cannon years, there’s still part of the story left untold. Golan and Globus’ lack of participation is partly to blame for that (they decided to make their own documentary, of course) but I also get the notion Hartley’s held back on some stuff (there’s no comment on Cannon’s breaking of the South African cultural boycott, for instance) to bulk out the extras for the inevitable Blu-ray release. (If that is the case, that version will get an extra half a star from me, at least.)

And I recorded Year of the Dragon on TCM recently; a decent catch:

Michael Cimino’s follow-up to the then critically savaged Heaven’s Gate is like that film re-conceived for people who just didn’t get it the first time round. The runtime is shorter (by far; some cuts of Heaven’s Gate run four hours), the period contemporary (set in New York’s Chinatown – yes, you should be thinking the movie as well as the place) but the themes more or less the same: how the American Dream was built on corruption and exploitation (of the poor, of the not-white) and why the country must suffer the consequences.

Cimino is far more direct in his excoriations here, with various heads laying out straight the mostly rightful grudges many Asian Americans hold about their adopted homeland. That he sets this in a milieu of blatant racism and dodgy gangland politics seems to muddy the message for some, but it really couldn’t be any clearer. It is let down, however, by its fairly ignorant sexual politics, some not-great performances (model-turned-actress Ariane took all the flack, but Mickey Rourke is more looks than skill here) and a tacked-on ending that smacks of studio interference. But what else is new?

NB: I need to stop using the phrase “[so-and-so]’s follow-up”.