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The Bottom Shelf #87

Dec. 21, 2006by: AwesomeZara
100%

I like themes. I've been criticized for not simply picking two completely different types of movies and throwing them up for my reviews, but I think it serves a more interesting purpose to find a common element where one shouldn't appear. This week is a prime example. While the two selections below at first glance might not look as if they have anything in common, in actuality, they aren't too far off from being one in the same.

RAVENOUS (1999)
Directed by: Antonia Bird
Starring: Guy Pearce, Robert Carlyle

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I'm not sure how to start this review. Is there anything clever to say before you launch into an explanation on why a movie about cannibalism is entertaining? Should I start with something like: "Gee, have you ever been ferociously hungry, so hungry that you look over at your best friend and think, 'he looks like some good eats'?" How does a person go about making light of a topic where even the most cold blooded person will tell you that the depravity of the act is unconscionable? I suppose I could start by rambling and then head into a brief description of the flick. That might work.

RAVENOUS stars Guy Pearce as a fallen soldier in the 1800's who is sent to a remote outpost in the Sierra Nevadas. He is little more than a coward who pretends to be dead during a battle and then accidentally ingests the blood of his fellow dead soldiers, thus leading to a deceptive act of heroism and a quiet hunger for human flesh. While located at the outpost, a stranger (Carlyle) stumbles into the small group stationed at the fort, rambling of a Donner Party-esque situation where cannibalism was resorted to in order to survive. Out of duty-bound honor, the fort's soldiers go in search of the last suspected survivor of the party, only to meet with their own doom.

The movie could probably best be categorized as a horror flick simply for the generalized theme in the forefront of the script. There is nothing more horrifying than wondering if someone is going to murder you so that they can eat your flesh. But there's a deeper underlying message, one hinting at elements of Manifest Destiny, morality and the simple question of the ethics involved with eating any type of meat. The acting is what sells the movie to those unimpressed simply by an overabundance of gore, but the gore will satisfy those who feel that the sparse dialog doesn't constitute enough of a examination of character. Or, in simpler terms: enough blood to make the simple minded happy, enough underlying thematic elements for the more cerebral set. Over all, RAVENOUS is a classic, underappreciated piece of cinema.

Favorite Scene:

When Knox approaches Martha looking for a "volunteer."

Favorite Line:

"Morality. The last bastion of a coward."

Trivia Tidbit:

It is 25 minutes into the film before Guy Pearce's lead character, who is in virtually every scene, utters his first full sentence.

See if you liked:

THE DESCENT, AUDITION, WOLF CREEK

THE SHAPE OF THINGS (2003)
Directed by: Neil LaBute
Starring: Paul Rudd, Rachel Weisz

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I both loved and hated this movie. Which is the essential point of one of the lead characters. Much of what goes on in this movie is meant to anger and provoke the viewer into feeling as if they are being deceived. Most everyone on the planet has suffered at the hands of a demanding and needy lover, one who used subtle forms of manipulation in order to guide us along the path that they wanted us to go. The movie yanks you along in the same fashion, much against your will, all while you realize that there is something seriously f*cked up afoot and yet coincidently feel as if you are powerless to stop it.

THE SHAPE OF THINGS is another brutal emotional offering by Neil LaBute, a director who has made his career on slamming a ball-peen hammer into the faces of the complacent. Weisz is an art student in the middle of developing her thesis. Rudd is a shlumpy mess who she sets her sights on improving. You watch the train wreck as if you are a well intentioned best friend, internally screaming at Rudd to open his eyes and stop getting dragged along by his balls. Yet you also realize that people are willing to give up anything in order to achieve a sense of acceptance and love, even at the expense of losing themselves in the process.

My main complaint with the movie is not the emotions that it forces me to feel, although those are most definitely at the forefront. The part that is off-putting to me is the style in which the lines are delivered. The movie panders as if the characters are in a play, with stilted speech patterns meant to keep the dialog as clear as possible for the slowest dolt to keep up. Problem with that is if you're capable of picking up what is going on, you end up feeling like that kid in the third grade who was reading at an 8th grade level when the rest of the class was struggling to keep up. For those with a low threshold for patience, that is the greatest obstacle for the movie to overcome. Aside from that, the message that it carries about our society and what it puts emphasis on is a masterstroke of brilliance. I just wish it could have gotten to the point a little faster.

Favorite Scene:

A toss up between the first encounter of the lead characters and the scene containing their first argument.

Favorite Line:

"When Picasso took a shit, he didn't call it art. He knew the difference. That's what made him Picasso."

Trivia Tidbit:

The movie was originally a play (which speaks to the manner of the acting) that debuted in 2001 starring the same cast featured in the movie.

See if you liked:

HAPPINESS, JUNEBUG, WELCOME TO THE DOLLHOUSE

Maneaters, whether of the more traditional sense of the term or the Hall and Oates variety are always great fodder for filmmaking. The jury's still out on which would be less painful to endure an attack from, however. Doesn't make watching them any less entertaining in the meantime.

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8:16PM on 12/21/2006

weird combo but..

OMG....Rachel Weisz is such a raging, maniuplative c*nt in "Shape".

On the other hand...Gretchen Mol might just be the hottest women I have ever seen in my life. I fell in love (ok ok, lust) with her character in that movie.

Oh yeah, "Ravenous" is a damn good flick too. Mad respect yo.
OMG....Rachel Weisz is such a raging, maniuplative c*nt in "Shape".

On the other hand...Gretchen Mol might just be the hottest women I have ever seen in my life. I fell in love (ok ok, lust) with her character in that movie.

Oh yeah, "Ravenous" is a damn good flick too. Mad respect yo.
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1:38PM on 12/21/2006

nah..

you should have paired Ravenous with Cannibal! The Musical

That would have been a fun reading!

Nice movies anyway, specially Ravenous
you should have paired Ravenous with Cannibal! The Musical

That would have been a fun reading!

Nice movies anyway, specially Ravenous
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12:24PM on 12/21/2006

Ravenous is a horror film?

Ravenous...a horror film? Really? It played out like a dark-comedy to me. I mean, sure...all horror flicks have elements of comedy to them. But this flick features a "Benny Hill-esque" chase scene in the second act. It's a good flick...but not a horror film, in my opinion. I wouldn't recommend it to lovers of Wolf Creek, Audtion, and the Descent. I'd liken it to Very Bad Things or Fargo...maybe.
Ravenous...a horror film? Really? It played out like a dark-comedy to me. I mean, sure...all horror flicks have elements of comedy to them. But this flick features a "Benny Hill-esque" chase scene in the second act. It's a good flick...but not a horror film, in my opinion. I wouldn't recommend it to lovers of Wolf Creek, Audtion, and the Descent. I'd liken it to Very Bad Things or Fargo...maybe.
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