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What We Do Is Secret (2007)
"I'm a lexicon devil with a battered brain"
Rising out of the chaotic, drug fueled punk scene of Los Angeles the Germs while only active for from 1977 to 1980 became a band who transformed the face of punk rock. This film retells the rise and fall of this great band who's impact and influence is still felt today.
What We Do Is Secret starts out with Darby Crash being interviewed by a European journalist about his 5 year plan. This 5 year plan could either be one of pure cockiness or did Darby believe that his days were numbered? All we're told is that the plan was inspired by the David Bowie song "Five Years" Throughout the film we see the band fail to get club bookings due to the violent, anarchistic nature of their performances (even though Crash thought of himself as being a fascist), the descent in heroin addiction and a rather hilarious interview segment on Rodney Bingenheimers radio show. During the final 10 minutes of the film the Germs play their final show after which Darby is shown to be in a rather helpless state. Darby crosses path with Casey Cola and the two of them form a suicide a pact. Darby was found dead a day before the assassination of John Lennon.
Taking on the hard job of playing the punk icon Darby Crash is Shane West who is absolutely stellar in this role. Often at battle with himself (weak/strong, gentle/aggressive) West portrays crash as the intelligent and cocky young man full of self hatred in such a convincing manner. Following this film West went on to became the front man of the recently united Germs.
Bijou Phillips puts in one of her greatest efforts as Germs bassist Lorna Doom (even playing bass on the films soundtrack-with West providing vocals) Rick Gonzalez (Pat Smear) and Noah Segan (Don Bolles) put in equally effective performances. The gritty nasty underbelly of this scene is introduced to us by the cast of misfits, addicts and enablers who I'm thankful are behind the TV screen.
What I particularly liked about this film is that it didn't gloss over the fact that Darby Crash was a homosexual. The scene in which Darby is sitting in his bedroom, chest cut open wide with Rob Henley is a beautiful one. Throughout the film we see the nature of their relationship and Henley's desire to become the Germs drummer even though he doesn't have a single bit of musical talent. The punk scene of the 1970s was never one that accepted homosexuality so I found it fantastic that this important part of the story wasn't tossed aside.
The soundtrack to this film is wonderful and features the music of David Bowie (2 Ziggy Stardust era songs), Alice Cooper, X and Shane West, Bijou Phillips, Lucas Haas and Micheal Le Blanc recreating the music of the Germs. The Germs contributed to this soundtrack with new recordings of the classics with Shane West on vocals.
Darby Crash became a victim of his own creation.
Red State (2011)
Kevin Smiths first and last attempt at the horror genre.
Red State is a film that I've been excited about for quite sometime now. Maybe I made the mistake of going into this film with high expectations but even so Kevin Smith fails to even come close to the horror and story as promised.
This was Kevin Smiths first and final attempt at the horror genre and its quite clear that he was out of his depth when making Red State. I get that as a writer/director he wanted to get out of the comfort zone of "gross out comedy" but he should have taken smaller steps, refined the story, found a way to pull off the original ending and delivered something that should have resembled a punch in the teeth. Red State is ultimately a terrible Tarantino knock-off with a poorly written Coen Brothers "inspired" ending.
As the Preacher Michael Parks plays a character that seems more demented and drunk then the terrifying and intimidating force he was written to be which is why this film goes off the tracks. As a viewer we needed to fear this man and what he was capable of doing for this film to work. Even as he orders the murders of several people he still comes across as a demented drunk - maybe that's what Kevin Smith was aiming for but for me personally it just didn't work.
The shining moment of Red State happens in the back of a caravan and is delivered by the dressed down but always great Melissa Leo. Here in Red State she plays the role of Cathy. Shes loves her children, her church, her god and her Preacher man. Cathy is also one of the most despicable characters in the sideshow of freaks featured in Red State. She's a cold, calculated, gun toting nut. As far as I'm concerned whatever part she's given Melissa Leo hits it out of the park and this is no exception but just wasn't enough to save this film.
Both John Goodman and Kevin Pollak were okay as the government agents but they didn't rise above and become anything remarkable. The obnoxious sexed starved teens spent the first 10 minutes of the film making observations about sex, pornography and why the youth of today are "socially backwards". These 3 young men would have been at home in one of Kevin Smiths previous films.
The inspiration for this film is the Phelps "God Hates F.gs" family. We all know who they are and we've seen the documentaries, read the articles and screwed our faces up in horror at the vile they spew out. The various documentaries that focus on the Phelps family are more of a horror film then what Red State turned out being and I would recommend viewing any of the documentaries over Red State.
Like a lot of "horror" films Red State falls into the category as having better promotional artwork then what it does a film.
Straight to DVD, "paint by numbers"
This straight to DVD, "paint by numbers" thriller staring Nicolas Cage and Nicole Kidman was one hell of a disappointment. The home invasion sub-genre while popular continually devours itself by its own lack of originality. There were a few moments in Trespass where the story could have taken a much more substantial route but rather then strive for something original the story falls back into the safe "paint by numbers" genre style. So in short - once you've seen one you've seen them all.
I have no idea where it went wrong but there was once a time when Nicolas Cage was hailed as being a great talent of cinema. During the past 10 years I can only count two films that feature the quality of acting he was once known for - 2009's doomsday epic Knowing & 2011's fantastic Drive Angry. There were scenes in Trespass that were obviously meant to be tense & on the edge but they were stripped of that feeling by the sub-par performance of Nicolas Cage as Kyle Miller. I found myself laughing several times when I should have been rooting for his character. He was just that bad. Played by someone else the character of Kyle Miller could have helped anchor this movie a little more and allow it to regain the intensity that it lacked.
The supporting cast (Nicole Kidman included) worked with what they had but I just wasn't able to invest in caring whether they lived or died. Nicole Kidman who is still such a great talent was reduced to spending the majority of this film sobbing and crawling along the ground. There was no need for the character of Sarah Miller (Nicole Kidman) to be played by someone of Kidmans stature. This character could have been played by anyone. The character Avery Miller (Liana Liberato) has a couple of great scenes towards the end of this film.
Trespass had the chance to go down a different route but sadly it went the safe, predictable path that we've all seen before.