Friday, February 6, 2009

Feast III: The Happy Finish [***]

After a lackluster second entry the gang that brought us “Feast” is back in top form with the third chapter of the trilogy-- a relatively brief entry that hits the ground running and made me realize “Feast II” was the breather and connective tissue we needed for an admittedly bizarre and kick ass sequel/possible finale. A few of the things set up in part two pay dividends in this entry—such as alien hybrids and pipes through the head—but a lot of the unexpected rears it’s head.

Doing their level best to survive the onslaught that started at the end of the last film our motley gang nails a few beasts then hole up in the town jail they tried unsuccessfully to occupy in the previous film. Therein they meet a survivalist named Shitkicker (John Allen Nelson, sublime) before things turn ugly and they vow to take the fight to the creatures. The gang befriends and escape to the sewers with a prophet named Short Bus Gus, who may or may not be able to control and communicate with the aliens.

In order to avoid spoiling a few truly great surprises I’ll tell you that a bizarre subculture exists down there in addition to the monsters and leave it at that, but I will tell you that the humor while keeping with the grand tradition of being “so not right” is actually funny again. My least favorite joke from the second film where a guy named Greg Swank sacrifices a baby to save himself has a long, irony laden and pretty damn funny pay-off where Greg lives through most of this film with a pipe sticking through his head and he’s disoriented, all his dialogue is unintelligible and subtitled and he thinks the surviving midget luchador from the last film is the baby he killed and this is his shot at redemption.

When I saw “Feast” in 2005 I admired the scene where a soldier was allowed to drink for free at the bar because the bartender was a World War II vet and respected what he did, it was a nice touch that felt pretty wholesome and American. The movie also had a kid getting eaten, old people getting interrogated and blown up and it was just good gruesome fun that embraced being an old fashioned bloody ass, bloody entertaining piece of joy. It also had some pathos to it, as one woman fights to survive to care for another’s child, two brothers band together to live, people had their reasons for wanting to survive and some did. It’s not easy to see that current going through the films but it is there.

Writers Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan like to keep you on your toes with some truly bizarre and unpredictable shit, but one of the surprising things they do is offer up a sense of fairness and balance. Things don’t always end happily for everyone as wars don’t always let heroes choose to die in a manner that befits them, but they see to it that those who deserve it and act selfishly find a way to meet their doom with unusually healthy doses of irony and agony.

About the only real negative I can say about the film is there is an extended strobe-lit sequence that stands in for the jarring shaky cam work of the first as far as bad directorial choices go and it’s frankly pretty damn irritating. That being said, I can pretty much eat the rest of this shit up.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist [***1/2]

We’ve all been there before: admonishing never again until the next time. Nick (Michael Cera) is making an ill advised phone call to his ex-girlfriend Triss explaing why he isn’t at school, his reasons are multiple, flimsy and he’s making one last mix CD for her. It’s desperate but standard until you see him against the wall as he makes his afternoon phone call, his cheek nestled against a picture of his ex on a collage that adorns his wall. The viewer won’t know it at the time, but the journey of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” will be better than its trailer lets on. I like Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, I think this movie is miles better than “Charlie Bartlett” and I think this film like “Superbad” deftly handles teenage insecurity, so the question is: why the fuck didn’t I see this thing until tonight? Sadly, I don’t have an answer.

A movie about two strangers who kiss, fight, search for one’s drunken friend who has run off under the mistaken impression that she has been kidnapped amidst an all night quest to find a band’s secret show seems like it would be some light fluffy fun (and it can be), but it never is just any of those things. Cera and Dennings as the titular Nick and Norah are warm and endearing characters, loveable and always at the ready with a quip but fully capable of revealing more depth. They aren’t over written and precious, they don’t have to keep up with the script it fits them.

The comedy of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is a mask and there are numerous telling moments in the film: such as the one where Nick has his cheek pressed against a picture of his girlfriend or the moments when after parting ways with Nick, Norah calls a friend named Tal (Jay Baruchel),who is a prick, but makes her feel good because he appreciates her sometimes or the moment when Norah asks how two people who can’t stand each other stay together for so long and Nick offers to call his parents to find out. This isn’t a romantic comedy about two people finding out they are perfect for each other, regardless of the fact that that happens to be true, it’s a story about how often our heart fails us and how we settle for being okay sometimes. The drunken escapades of Norah’s friend Caroline (Ari Graynor) suggest that obliviousness is a preferable alternative to throwing yourself out there for someone to trample on and Nick’s homosexual bandmates, who have brought a fellow named Lethario along for the ride, suggest as “Superbad” did before that there’s no love more uncomplex than man love.

“Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist” is a film that understands how big a role heartbreak, the folly of youth and settling for not being alone plays in our romantic lives, better than that I think it also understands what courage is. It takes lots of balls to put yourself out there and that fear that may send you into a retreat never goes away (the film’s final moments are a perfect example of this). The lucky ones among us just make an effort not to shit on or get shat upon.