Icarus File No. 4: Captive State (dir by Rupert Wyatt)


Does anyone remember Captive State?

Captive State came out in March and, before it was released, it seemed like it had the potential to be something special.  The trailer looked good.  The cast was impressive.  Perhaps even more importantly, the film was directed by Rupert Wyatt, who did such a good job with Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes.  Surely, if anyone had the talent to create a convincing film about life under an alien dictatorship, it would be Rupert Wyatt!

In fact, my only reason for concern had to do with when the film was being released.  March seemed like a very strange time to be releasing a big “event” film.  Don’t get me wrong.  A March release isn’t as bad as a January or even a February release.  I mean, unless your film is a romantic comedy, you definitely do not want it to be released in either one of those two months.  Those months are where studios dump their worst films so that they can die a quiet death.  March, on the other hand, is when the studio releases films that have the potential to be a success but which they’re still not expecting to set the world on fire.

Of course, there have been exceptions to that rule, as both Wes Anderson (Grand Budapest Hotel) and Jordan Peele (Get Out) can tell you.  So, as Captive State’s release date approached, we were left to wonder.  Would this be another case of a film being better than it’s release date or would this be just another forgettable but not terrible movie that the studio probably spent a bit too much money on?

Captive State, sadly, turned out to be more of a case of the latter than the former.

The film opens with Chicago being invaded in 2019.  Significantly, unlike other recent invasion films, this one doesn’t spend too much time on the invasion itself or Earth’s initial attempts to fight back.  Instead, it jumps forward eight years, to 2027.  The aliens are in control of Earth, though the aliens themselves claim to only be “legislators” who are governing the planet for our own good.  While the majority of Earthlings just seem to be resigned to accepting being conquered as their new normal, there are a few resistors.  There’s also quite a few collaborators.  The tricky part of life in 2027 is figuring out who you can and can not trust.

There’s a lot of characters in Captive State and, at times, it can be difficult to keep track of how everyone’s related and who is working for who.  However, that seems to be intentional on the film’s part.  Rather than telling a conventional tale of alien conquest, Captive State sets out to be a serious exploration of what life would be like for the people living under the thumb of not just an intergalactic dictatorship but actually any dictatorship.  The Legislators rule by fear.  The collaborators have their own individual reasons for collaborating but, now that they’ve declared which side they’re on, there’s no going back for them.  One way or another, they’ve sealed their fate.  The same can be said for those in the rebellion.  Meanwhile, most people are just trying to not get caught in the crossfire.

And the thing is …. you want the film to work.  It’s an intriguing idea and how can you not respect that fact that Wyatt wanted to try to do something a little bit different with his story of alien invasion?  But sadly, the film never works the way that you’re hoping it will.  The film tries to do a lot in just 109 minutes.  In fact, it probably tries to do too much and, as a result, there’s little time to get to know the characters, the majority of whom come across as being underwritten and with murky motivations.  Captive State hinges on the actions of a detective played by John Goodman but the film itself doesn’t seem to be sure of who Goodman’s supposed to be.  Hence, the film’s final twist seems to come out of nowhere.  It’s hard not to feel that the ideal way for Captive State to have told its story would have been as a 10-episode miniseries on HBO.  Trying to stuff all of this into under two hours of running time just doesn’t work.

And it’s a shame, that it doesn’t.  Ambition should never be faulted.  If only the results, in this case, lived up to the ambition.

Previous Icarus Files:

  1. Cloud Atlas
  2. Maximum Overdrive
  3. Glass

Better Drugs and Bigger Parties: The Dirt (2019, directed by Jeff Tremaine)


If you want to experience the sex, drugs, and rock and roll lifestyle, you could start a band, play some clubs, get signed to a record deal, go on tour, and eventually burn yourself out.  Of course, if that’s too much trouble or if you’re already older than 30, I guess you can just watch The Dirt on Netflix.

The Dirt is the latest band biopic.  This time the band is Mötley Crüe  and the film has all the usual VH1 Behind the Music style anecdotes.  Watch Nikki Sixx (Douglas Booth) nearly die of a heroin overdose!  Ponder how Tommy Lee (Chase “Machine Gun” Kelly) could have been stupid enough to cheat on Heather Locklear (Rebekah Graf)!  Listen as Mick Mars (Iwan Rhoen) refuses to tell how old he is!  Gasp as Vince Neil (Daniel Webber, giving the movie’s best performance) deals with tragedy after tragedy!  When you’re not watching Tommy Lee go down on a groupie or Nikki learning how to shoot dope, you can watch as Ozzy Osbourne (Tony Cavalero) snorts a line of ants and slurps up his own urine.  The movie is based on Mötley Crüe’s autobiography and the actors playing the members of the band take turns breaking the fourth wall and telling their story.  Nikki Sixx says, “We were a gang of fucking idiots!” and the movie seems to agree.  Nikki has always had a reputation for being the smartest member of Mötley Crüe.  Of course, when your main competition is Tommy Lee, that’s not too high of a bar to clear.

Especially when compared to other band biopics like Straight Outta Compton and Bohemian Rhapsody, The Dirt is shallow and overly episodic.  Nikki says that Mötley Crüe’s main concern was finding “better drugs and bigger parties,” and The Dirt is the same way.  It never digs too deep into the band’s music or the reasons why, for a period of time in the 80s, they were so popular.  The story is told by the members of the band so it often switches between being honest about the band’s history and making excuses for some of the members’s worst behavior, like when Tommy punches his first fiancee.  Fans of Mötley Crüe might enjoy seeing all of the stories about the band brought to life.  Meanwhile, those who didn’t care about Mötley Crüe before watching The Dirt will probably care even less after spending nearly two hours watching them act like self-destructive fools.  One thing that the movie gets undeniably correct: After all these years, Dr. Feelgood still rocks.

 

Celebrate Roger Corman’s Birthday With These 12 Trailers!


Roger Corman in The Godfather Part II

Today is a very special day!  It’s Roger Corman’s 92nd birthday!

Here at the Shattered Lens, we traditionally celebrate this day with a special edition of Lisa Marie’s Favorite Grindhouse and Exploitation Film Trailers!  Below, you’ll find the trailers for 12 films that were either directed by,  produced by, or distributed by the legendary Roger Corman!

  1. Five Guns West (1955)

This western was the first film that Roger Corman was credited with directing.

2. The Day The World Ended (1955)

Though Corman worked in almost every type of film genre imaginable, he’s probably best remembered for his science fiction and horror films.  This was one of the first of them.

3. Machine Gun Kelly (1958)

Along with westerns and sci-fi films, Corman also directed several gangster classics.  Machine Gun Kelly is remembered as one of his best.

4. The Intruder (1962)

Corman was an exploitation filmmaker with a conscience.  At a time when other films were avoiding social issues, Corman dove right in with challenging films like The Intruder.

5. The Terror (1963)

Corman was famous for his ability to spot new talent.  His 1963 film The Terror starred a then unknown actor named Jack Nicholson.

6. The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

In the 60s, Corman was also well-known for his Edgar Allan Poe adaptations, the majority of which starred Vincent Price.  With these colorful and flamboyant films, Corman showed himself to be a pop artist at heart.

7. Boxcar Bertha (1972)

In the 70s, Corman moved away from directing and focused on producing.  His ability to spot talent undiminished, Corman helped to launch the careers of the some of the important directors of all time.  In 1972, he hired a young director named Martin Scorsese to direct Boxcar Bertha.

8. Cries and Whispers (1973)

While Corman was producing exploitation films, he was also distributing “difficult” foreign-language films that might otherwise have never been seen in an American theater.  In 1973, he distributed this classic Ingmar Bergman film.  Cries and Whispers was nominated for best picture of the year, losing to The Sting.

9. Caged Heat (1974)

Jonathan Demme was another director who got his start directing Corman-produced films like Caged Heat.  Demme would later thank Corman by casting him in several of his films, including the 1991 Best Picture winner, The Silence of the Lambs.

10. Piranha (1978)

Piranha was one of Corman’s biggest hits as a producer.

11. Carnosaur (1993)

With Carnosaur, Corman showed that you didn’t need a lot of money to bring dinosaurs back to life.

12. Dinocroc vs Supergater (2010)

Corman has continued to produce films in the 21st century.  Films like Dinocroc vs Supergator not only won him legions of new fans but they also paved the way for films like Sharkando.

Happy birthday, Roger Corman!

Back to School Part II #52: Nerve (dir by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman)


For the past three weeks, Lisa Marie has been in the process of reviewing 56 back to school films!  She’s promised the rest of the TSL staff that this project will finally wrap up by the end of today, so that she can devote her time to helping to prepare the site for its annual October horrorthon!  Will she make it or will she fail, lose her administrator privileges, and end up writing listicles for Buzzfeed?  Keep reading the site to find out!)

nerve_2016_poster

Recently, I came across someone on twitter wondering if Emma Roberts is ever actually going to play an adult role.  Personally, I think the question is a bit unfair (just because you’re playing a teenager, that doesn’t mean that you’re not dealing with “adult” issues) but I understand the logic behind it.  Emma Roberts is a Hollywood veteran who made her film debut 15 years ago.  She’s currently 25 years old but, more often that not, she’s still cast as a high school student.  (At the most, she might occasionally get to be a college student.)  Going solely by her film and television roles, Emma Roberts has been a high school student for 12 years now.

But you know what?

I say more power to Emma Roberts.  Being a teenager is a lot more fun than being an adult and she should stay in high school for as long as she can pull it off!

Anyway, this year’s Emma-Roberts-In-High-School film was a thriller called Nerve.  Actually, very little of the film takes place in high school though a running theme through the film is the desire of a senior named Vee (short for Venus and played by Roberts) to attend the California Institute of the Arts after she graduates.  Unfortunately, it costs money to go to a good school and Vee’s mother (Juliette Lewis) doesn’t have any.  As well, both Vee and her mother are still struggling to accept the recent death of Vee’s brother.

However, there may be a way for Vee to raise the money.  Vee learns that her friend, Sydney (Emily Meade), has become an online star by playing Nerve.  Nerve is a game where you can either volunteer to be a player or you can pay to be a viewer.  (There’s a third role that you can play in Nerve but it’s not a good role and we don’t learn about it until later in the film.)  The watchers dare the players to do something.  If the players do it, they win money.  If the players fail … well, there are consequences for everything.

Though initially reluctant, Vee agrees to be a player.  At first, it’s a lot of fun.  The normally cautious Vee gets to experience the exhilaration of taking a risk.  She even meets another Nerve player, Ian (Dave Franco) and soon the two of them are a team, partners and perhaps something more.  But, as the game progresses, the dares become more dangerous and the stakes get higher.  And, of course, Ian has a secret of his own..

The great thing about Nerve is that it tells a story about what’s is pretty much happening right now.  It’s easy to imagine a real-life version of Nerve going on right now.  As I watched Vee and Ian play Nerve, I was actually reminded of how much fun twitter used to be.  And then, just as happens in Nerve, more and more people got involved and things quickly went downhill.  The more popular both twitter and Nerve became, the less pleasant the experience.  The same is true for just about everything that’s ever happened online.  It always starts out as fun until the trolls arrive.  (And trolls, of course, have the magic ability to use their mere presence to transform former non-trolls into trolls as well.)  Nerve answers the age-old question of why we can’t have nice things.

Beyond that, it’s an entertaining film.  Emma Roberts and Dave Franco make for an exceptionally likable couple, the film is quickly paced, and Michael Simmonds’s cinematography gives the film an appealing and slickly flamboyant look.  Nerve didn’t really get as much attention as it deserved when it was originally released but I have a feeling that it is a film that will be rediscovered and appreciated by viewers in the future.