Most weeks, I review more DVDs than the Indy can fit into print. You can look for extra write-ups here, on the IndyBlog.
Straight outta France comes this insane hybrid of Saw and Goodfellas entitled Asylum (aka I Want to Be a Gangster). Granted, when I first read the synopsis and looked at the cover, I was expecting just another faux-gritty low-budget Tarantino rip-off, an easily forgotten lark that would offer nothing new. However, about 15 minutes in, it becomes obvious that this thing is going to be so full of clever twists and brutal turns that it’ll be an original treat. Small-time crook Jack wants to become a big-time gangster. He moves up the underworld hierarchy and finds himself in the employ of the local bigwig, but after one accident too many, he’s kidnapped and chained to a tree in the middle of nowhere. As he starts to go mad from the lack of hope for escape, various coincidences create one new chance after another for him, with an incredibly mad ending that I completely didn’t expect and only made me love being locked in this Asylum even more.
The cornfield horror of Jeepers Creepers meets the criminal elements of Pulp Fiction, mostly successfully, in Rites of Spring, a decent little gem that manages to mix those elements with enough startling ferocity that it actually comes off way more original than it has any right to. Two women are kidnapped from a parking lot and awaken to find themselves strung up in a barn by a crazy old coot who seems to be keeping something under the floorboards…something that needs blood. Meanwhile, a group of kidnappers plot and execute the abduction of the local millionaire’s little girl, not realizing the rich papa has some tricks of his own. Together, they all are corralled into an abandoned silo as the thing in the barn gets loose and needs more blood. While its very maddening that we’re never told anything about the monster, who he is or why he needs sacrifices, there’s enough entertaining horror-action on-screen to keep Rites of Spring the right choice for Saturday-night viewing.
Sometimes when I write a movie review, I discuss how the film in question might have been a great idea in theory, but the execution was so flawed that it wound up just being such a total disaster that it’s actually sad. But, in the case of Butter, not only is it a horrible idea, but an even worse execution of that idea, making it such a grand disaster that it’s actually good that it wasn’t foisted upon an unsuspecting (and possibly uncaring) public. Even worse, it’s a completely witless satire on the current state of American politics, transposed to the cutthroat world of butter sculpting. Jennifer Garner is the prim and proper representation of the Right, a scheming and conniving “Christian” who will do anything it takes to make a name for herself in Iowa, while 10-year-old African-American orphan Destiny (Yara Shahidi, the only bright spot of the thing) is her competitor. The on-the-nose comparisons between Obama and McCain/Romney are so stilted and forced that it makes Butter a bitter embarrassment for everyone, no matter what your political ideology might be.