Friday, April 26, 2013

The Lords of Salem

If any film genre sucks today, its horror.  When "Paranormal Activity" can consistently every year open to massive crowds and become a massive film franchise with no work, no care, and no attempt to even be scary, its clear we have a problem.  I think what modern filmgoers today want is just safety:  safety in knowing that movie you're seeing is kinda scary, but in an expected and easily comprehensible way.  You want a scary ghost to pop out at you and yell "BOO!" and get the adrenaline boost, but nothing more.  No nightmares, no lingering sense of unease, nothing that breaks the boundaries, or challenges you.  Horror films are a ride with the pre-planned being maybe some gore and the tension of a scary thing going to jump-scare you.  That's the contract you've paid when you bought your tickets.  So I'm sure today if any "Paranormal Activity"-bred teenagers go to see the new Rob Zombie movie, "The Lords of Salem" they'll think its A) stupid, B) a joke, and C) stupid.  And they'll be missing out.

Actually, I really hope lots of people who have never seen Horror beyond the traditional haunted house movie go to see this.  It will fry their brains properly, which is what horror is supposed to do.  I don't know how Rob Zombie manages to continue to exist in today's world, since his movies are so off-the-rails and so raw, and ultimately, so unique, that you'd think the Hollywood studios would have booted his ass into direct-to-video by now.  (It have something to do with paying his corporate dues by making the remake of "Halloween"*.)  Many years ago, when I was kid watching "House of 1000 Corpses", I couldn't believe that I was actually seeing what I was seeing.  It was unlike any other horror movie I had ever seen, just this grungy compilation of madness and experimental cheap horror.  "Are they allowed to make movies like this?  What year was this made?  What is this thing?"  I love that movie, and its sequel "The Devil's Rejects" was just as good.

I'm never quite sure what the heck I've been through after seeing a Rob Zombie movie.  I suppose I can superficially justify his work by comparing him to a million other movies and a million other directors - mostly from the 70s - but that seems to diminish the impact here.  At times while watching "The Lords of Salem", I thought Rob Zombie was painfully out of his depth, creating a silly movie with scares that were more reminiscent of a bad music video than a real horror movie.  Then at other times, I thought he was some kind of subversive genius, completely smashing at the boundaries of the genre and creating something really mindbending and memorable.  "The Lords of Salem" is not a movie which I can simply say "good or bad" after seeing it, because I'm not really sure what I saw.  It was really well-shot, it had its creepy moments, it had its disgusting moments, but I don't know what it amounted to.  I need to see this again.  And that's almost as glowing a recommendation as I can give, its like:  I don't get this thing, go see it for yourself.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Place Beyond the Pines

2011's "Drive" remains triumphant as one of the most vibrant and shockingly vigorous creations of 21st century filmmaking.  That movie was as fashionable and cool as the blood-splattered scorpion jacket and blue jeans that Ryan Gosling was wearing throughout it.  Watching that movie was like drinking bottled electricity.  Now in 2013, inevitably, "Drive" was going to end up inspiring a few imitators.  "Rip-off" is a rough term, its a little crude and a little accusatory for what "The Place Beyond the Pines" is, I'd say its more of an "artistic descendant".  Clearly no movie would exist called "The Place Beyond the Pines" if there had never been a movie called "Drive", but "The Place Beyond the Pines" is unique enough on its own merits that it should judged that way.  And unfortunately, it doesn't come up very well.

Only about a third of "The Place Beyond the Pines"'s three-acts actually stars Ryan Gosling and seems to be, on if only a marketing level, an homage to "Drive".  Maybe the filmmakers never intended their movie to have any connection to "Drive" at all, but I'm sorry, if you cast Ryan Gosling as a quiet, troubled outlaw robbing banks with motorsports superpowers, inevitably I, and quite other people, are going have the word "Drive" lit up inside our brains like Vegas neon lights.  Beyond that, however, there is still a remaining two acts starring different people in very different but related stories.  I was not expecting this, and was left completely confused during the movie when all of a sudden it seemed like story I was experiencing had ended, and now I was watching a very extended coda.  And then that story ended and a whole new postscript came along, this one with even less clarity of structure.  It was exhausting, it was confusing.  I thought Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling were sharing a story together, instead they each have their own, and then Dane DeHaan (the lead from last year's psychic tragedy, "Chronicle", this time without "Akira"-esque powers) gets what's basically his own movie too.

Its quite a thing to be in a theater over an hour after the story you paid money to see has concluded.  Most critics seem to have deeply enjoyed "The Place Beyond the Pines", for being an introspective deeply morose film featuring an epic family saga that would not have been out of place in the Seventies era of New Hollywood films like "The Godfather" and "The Deer Hunter"*.  I did not.  This felt to me like something that would fit better in a book, where you can write three interconnected stories for hundreds of pages, while your readers have weeks to experience, but not something that works in a two-hour film.  When I'm in a movie repeating to myself "Isn't this over?  What is going on?" that's not a good sign.  Which is a shame since "The Place Beyond the Pines" even getting over my confusion, seems like it was something very serious and very dramatic, though sadly often melodramatic and humorless.  Call me a sell-out, call me a fanboy, call me a moron, but I missed Ryan Gosling for two hours of that film.  Sue me.

Room 237 and The Shining

"The Shining" is easily, by far and away, my favorite horror film.  In fact, I'd rank it as one of the best movies ever made, a masterpiece by every sense of that word.  I have probably seen "The Shining" a good twenty times over my lifetime, and every single time I see it its like a gripping, entirely new experience.  Its a wonderful delirious movie with so much subtlety in how it slowly twists your mind, just as the characters in the movie themselves are losing their grasp on reality and sanity.  Stanley Kubrick is one of the most beloved directors to ever live, and for good reason, he's made at least half a dozen truly excellent, classic movies of many genres.  But he only made one horror film, "The Shining", when by 1980 in his career he could have made any movie he wanted.  And the result is there for the entire world to enjoy:  a stirring, quietly unnerving, and stunningly beautiful movie that is masterfully driven from beginning to end.  I don't think I can lay the hyperbole down any harder for "The Shining", it is simply that good.

"Room 237" is a new documentary that was released detailing fan theories about what "The Shining" really means.  Stanley Kubrick, even today many years after his death, still maintains a devoted audience of worshipers who truly believe that he was the ultimate Film Artist.  That every noise, every image, every prop, and every cut was exactly according to a masterplan which would secretly give the audience messages about what the film were really about.  The underlying assumption amongst the fans of "Room 237" believe is that the film is not about a family living in a hotel as the ghosts and spirits of the place infect their minds and drive them to the darkest violence, no, that's merely a frame.  Stanley Kubrick is too great a man to just make a horror film.  Rather through careful examination, a level of obsession usually seen only in paranoid schizophrenia, and not a small bit of delusion, these fans have come up with several theories about what Kubrick was really trying to say.  Its really about the death of the American Indian.  Its really about the Holocaust.  Its really a confession that Kubrick gave to the world about how he filmed the fake the Apollo 11 Moon landing for NASA.

Clearly, all of the theories are nonsense, spawning from the same misused pattern-recognition powers that we humans have misused to create such other bullshit as JFK assassination theories, the Bible Code, Dan Brown, and Paul is Dead.  Humans can see patterns everywhere, we're hard wired for it.  If I draw two dots and a half circle, you'll see a face.  We have amazing cognitive skills, and it allows us to create fantastic narratives, without which our love of fiction probably would not exist.  However, it also results in a lot of silliness, like the theories of "Room 237".  To the filmmakers credit, they work tirelessly to recreate the evidence that the theorists see, and simply present the theories forward without judgement.  This isn't a study in social insanity or how film nerdiness can go too far, its just the theories shown to us - make your own conclusions about them.  What I find so interesting is how its "The Shining" that seems to create so much interest, even if its the mistaken application of cognitive powers.  There is truly something about that movie that leaves you wondering:  "what the hell did I just watch?"

Saturday, April 20, 2013

All-Out Giant Monster Attack! Episode 23 - Konga

"Not since KING KONG has the screen exploded with such mighty force and spectacle."  They weren't being subtle when they decided to exploit King Kong to create "Konga", where they?  Producer Herman Cohen was always a big fan of  "King Kong", and his dream vision for "Konga" was to create a color giant ape movie.  He was so set on proving his film's connection with "King Kong" that he paid RKO Pictures twenty-five thousand dollars to use "King Kong" in the advertisements... also probably to avoid a lawsuit since the movie is called "KONGa".

Now, I am sorry to say that "Konga" nowhere near matches the artistry or the timeless brilliance that was "King Kong".  Though I doubt many would be surprised by this fact, since Herman Cohen's previous films were Z-grade filth such as "I Was a Teenage Frankenstein", "I Was a Teenage Werewolf", and - please do sit down before you read this title - "Bela Lugosi Meets a Brooklyn Gorilla".  In fact, one of the working titles of "Konga" was "I Was a Teenage Gorilla", which considering the plotline, honestly makes no sense.  The poster shows a giant ape holding a lovely blond in his hand, when nothing of the kind actually happens.  As a matter of fact, creature Konga only grows to gigantic size in the last ten minutes, when previously he was just a hypnotized chimpanzee assassin.

Similar to "The Giant Behemoth", "Konga" was a joint American-British production, though this one was made by the British studio, Anglo-Amalgamated using real British actors instead of a mostly American cast painfully unable to imitate English accents.  "Konga" was directed by John Lemont, a man who only made less than half a dozen films, and considering how artless the effects, cinematography, and sets are in this film, we can be glad that Lemont spent the next forty years of his life doing something other than directing movies.  I think "Konga" was trying to imitate Japanese giant monster films by creating the giant ape effects by putting a man in the suit, but where they went wrong was when they bought a cheap Halloween store ape suit and tried to make a movie around it.  Its laughably awful.  Luckily however, the film was able to get a great leading man in Michael Gough (best known for playing Alfred in the 90s Batman films*), whose energy and intensity saves the film from being just a giant cheeseball of bad special effects and worse sets.  The plot is original, focusing on a sleazy mad scientist rather than any would-be heroes, making "Konga" watchable, and often entertaining.  Just expect to laugh - a lot - at things that were never supposed to be funny.

Monday, April 15, 2013

To the Wonder

"To the Wonder" is the new film by Terrance Malick, the director of "The Tree of Life", a movie I, in all seriousness, once called "the worst movie I've ever seen".  In the last two years, I've decided to take back that claim, "The Tree of Life" is completely unwatchable, a muddling, horribly pretentious piece of work, which is really just a collection of pretty images with a very vague storyline and hilariously vapid philosophy thrown around it.  But it is very pretty, and I can tell Terry Malice has an artist's soul - not for filmmaking or storytelling, but for camera work.  Actually, I've since decided that the true worst I've ever seen is actually the Michael Bay "Transformers" movie (either one of the three, they're all equally awful).  But that's just haggling, it still means that "The Tree of Life" is a movie I wouldn't wish upon my worst enemies, it is a miserable experience.  If you enjoy Malice's films, don't let me take away from you, if you're finding meaning in it, God Bless.  Some people find meaning in "Final Fantasy VIII", I don't want to take that away from them either.  But these are truly, awful awful movies, and I'll explain why more as we get further into this post.

I could only watch fifty-five minutes of "To the Wonder" until finally natural boredom and complete disconnect to the movie, the character, and the plotline simply sapped all of my ability to keep watching.  Normally, I wouldn't dare review a movie when I had only seen half of it, but I know enough about Mr. Malick at this point that I can generally predict what the second half of "To the Wonder" is - exactly like the first half.  Maybe even less coherent.  These movies don't have plots, so its not like I'm missing much.  They don't have characters either, they have vague symbolic shades of people played by big name actors being paid millions of dollars to not recite dialog or really perform, just to act like models for a photoshoot.  "Photoshoot" is a good way to describe Terry Malice's work, because other than his very first film "Badlands", which I saw recently as research for this review, I wouldn't dare actually consider anything else he's made to be "movies".  There might be miles of intrinsically-layered symbolism and philosophy and hidden messages all throughout every frame of "To the Wonder", but I'm not going to dedicate my life to uncover what Terry is trying to say here.  I couldn't even make it through the whole film!

So is "To the Wonder" a good movie?  Well, Terrence Malick isn't concerned with making entertainment or telling stories, so its not concerned with being objectively good or bad.  The concern here seems to be whether its meaningful or important as art, though its hard to really decide that when the movie is simply unwatchable.  I know this is a terribly pretty movie, but after ten minutes of gorgeous imagery, you realize this is all there is.  You have nothing to look forward to but this same character-less and plot-less photography adventure for another 105 minutes.  "To the Wonder" seems to be less pretentious than "The Tree of Life", avoiding the pointless hour spent showing the creation of the universe and I didn't see laughably simplistic philosophy like the "way of nature, way of faith" crap.  But somehow without that weirdness, Terry has made something even less interesting, even less watchable, and more self-indulgent than before.

Friday, April 12, 2013

All-Out Giant Monster Attack! Episode 22 - Mothra

Mothra is perhaps the third greatest icon of kaiju film, behind only the great green monsters, Godzilla and Gamera.  He's best known in context within his Godzilla appearances, sometimes as an enemy, other times as an ally.  But what is less well-known is that Mothra has her* own independent franchise of films, beginning with the 1961 "Mothra" and continuing with a trilogy of high-budget kaiju films in the 1990s.  Mothra is the most morally pure of all the giant monsters, never once appearing as villainous, beyond a single instance of alien mind control.  She is typically shown as a defender of the Earth, a mystical guardian of great power, which often extends beyond death itself.  New Mothras are born in almost every film in which Mothra appears - often twins - and even though Mothra has been killed, her lifeforce will always been used to power-up the remaining good monster and save the day.  She's also the most beautiful of the kaiju, and is typically supported by two tiny twins who sing her theme song.

1961's "Mothra" marks for us, something of a shift.  We've now moved beyond the era of cheesy American giant monster productions to a new age where the Japanese kaiju genre becomes the hegemony for decades.  We'll still cover a few Western films here and there, the next two reviews are going to be for "Konga" and "Gorgo", both monsters targeting London, but after that the 1960s are completely owned by the East.  And I'm hardly complaining, since the whole point of this series was actually to cover these classic Japanese kaiju films, especially the Toho ones.  "Mothra" is enough of a cinematic success to make me very excited for the dozens of movies we have yet to cover.  This is the start of the Golden Age of Showa Kaiju.

"Mothra" is the first kaiju film in which the giant monster is not a horrifying natural plague brought upon mankind. rather, its more of an adventure film with the occasional scenes of cities getting pummeled by a giant butterfly.  The movie is actually rather light-hearted and silly, with the addition of fantastic elements such as the tiny singing twins.  Its here that we start to see kaiju change from being serious (and often not-so-serious) horror to more of a family movie, until by the 1970s, Godzilla and his pals will be punching monsters in campy movies for children worldwide.  And also, "Mothra" is a very well-made movie in just about every respect, this is clearly a step-up from the movies, both American and Japanese, that have come before.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

All-Out Giant Monster Attack! Episode 21 - The Giant Behemoth

Originally the plan was that Episode 21 would be a review of "Varan the Unbelievable".  However, little did I know that "Varan the Unbelievable" is perhaps the most painfully unremarkable movie ever made, more or less completely indistinguishable to spending an hour and a half watching an empty white wall.   "Varan" was so truly depressing that I wondered if this countdown should end right here and there*.  I refuse to write anything more about that movie.  Luckily there was "The Giant Behemoth" to pull me back up and remind me just how much fun giant monster movies can be.

"The Giant Behemoth" is a 1959 film that curiously was a cooperative British and American venture, produced by the American Allied Artists and the British studio, Eros Pictures.  In the UK there was a slightly different cut and the movie was known as "Behemoth, the Sea Monster".  The plot is well described by the poster:  a giant radioactive dinosaur marches into London and causing a very significant ruckus.  This was a film directed by Eugene Lourie, who previously in 1953 started the giant monster craze with "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms", inspiring pretty much every movie on this countdown that came afterwards.  "The Giant Behemoth" is basically a retread of that original concept, only moving the monster to London and featuring a very different human plot.  While "20,000 Fathoms"' effects were done by Ray Harryhausen, "The Giant Behemoth" is the last major film to show-off the work of Willis O'Brien, the effects master on "King Kong" and Harryhausen's master.  The 1950s had not been a very fertile time for O'Brien, who mainly shuffled between various unfinished projects and created a terrible low-budget film called "The Black Scorpion", so really "The Giant Behemoth" is his last hurrah.  However, this is not the last time we'll hear from that man, as his cinematic influence would go on to inspire the films "Godzilla vs. King Kong" and "The Valley of Gwangi".

As Western 1950s giant monster films go, "The Giant Behemoth" is cut out of pure stock template.  The Behemoth is a yet another ancient creature awakened by the folly of human nuclear testing, who inevitably finds his way to a major metropolitan area for a spectacular final climax.  Most of the film focuses on scientists in a lab trying to uncover what is causing strange attacks on the English coastline, and the story is so serviceable that they did not even bother including a major female character for a weak romantic sideplot.  Yet, I had to say "The Giant Behemoth" was still a great deal of fun, even with stock motion clearly inferior to contemporary Harryhausen creations and the aforementioned plot issues.  The pacing is excellent, the monster's radioactive powers are both excellently cheesy and actually make for an interesting threat, and the movie knows exactly what kind of audience its going to please.  Its original and exciting enough to keep you watching and there is much to enjoy.

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Croods

I've been following the career of Chris Sanders for a few years now, even since I saw his excellent "Lilo & Stitch".  Chris Sanders has a fairly legendary status amongst animation fans, as he can be seen as something of a modern Don Bluth.  He's a former Disney worker who jumped ship after his movie, "American Dog", became transformed into the painfully generic "Bolt".  However, after joining DreamWorks, I wonder if Sanders really has gotten that intellectual freedom he was looking for when he left Disney.  "How to Train Your Dragon" is probably still the best DreamWorks animated film since "The Prince of Egypt", and as much as I liked that movie, nothing about it felt like a Chris Sanders movie.  Only a few dragon designs really seemed to show off his original art style.  And comparisons to "Lilo & Stitch" would make pretty much any movie look inferior, so I'll quiet my tongue there.

When the first trailers for "The Croods" came out, I was actually very much into it.  I could see immediately in the facial structure and luscious thighs of the Cavegirl, Eeb, that this was going to be a movie with the full Chris Sanders flair.  Yeah, it was in 3D, but you could still see his distinctive style at work.  Which is why it pains me so much to say, "The Croods" is probably the most generic animated film I've ever seen.  You plot out a graph using every cartoon of the last ten years as a point, and there will be "The Croods" sitting at dead mediocre center.  Chris Sanders has made a gorgeous movie, about as beautiful as anything you will ever see in a theater.  His world design is top-notch and every frame looks like the prettiest moments of a JRPG like "Xenoblade".  But the plot is pure service.  This is mostly because Chris Sanders has decided to partner up with a man named Kirk DeMicco, whose most successful movie so far is "Space Chimps".  Yes, "Space Chimps".  That really says it all.

I wonder if a movie like this even needed a plot.  Since mostly its a series of gags from start to finish.  The best jokes in the movie are about as old as the prehistoric character themselves, being homages to old Chuck Jones and Bob Camplett "Looney Tunes" shorts.  Unfortunately, with all the animated madness its hard to actually shift gears when the movie bothers to grow serious.  And then, the story itself isn't revolutionary, it doesn't challenge in any way, and it feels like its only there to justify making a movie that really only wanted to be jokes.  "The Croods" is wonderfully beautiful, and I believe a great movie might have existed in Chris Sanders mind at some point, but the DreamWorks ethic of batting low and aiming for easy laughs over risking for really experimental filmmaking seems to have gotten to him.  Little kids will love this, adults looking for nothing more than a way to keep their kids quiet will be satisfied, but I am not.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Breakers

"Spring Breakers" represents something I'd like to see more often:  an art house director taking on a genre that is usually made for the lowest common denominator and pushing it in a dark new direction.  Let's see Lars von Trier direct "Transformers 4", David Lynch do "Paranormal Activity 5", and Terrence Malick can do a Tyler Perry film.  Then Michael Bay can spend seven hours filming a helicopter from seven directions and have Megan Fox float by an exploding dinosaur and we can call it "Tree of Life 2:  Way of Nature Strikes Back".  Essentially that seems to be the concept of "Spring Breakers", directed by Harmony Korine - taking the lowest common denominator party comedies, and transforming them into a freakish spiritual journey into the American college student's Heart of Darkness, Spring Break.

What Harmony Korine has done here is collect two Disney channel creations, such as Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, along with the non-Disney branded Ashely Benson (but her filmography is so vapid she might as well be a Disney creation), and finally his wife, Rachel Korine, and put them together on a strange journey to the promised land of the Key West at Spring Break.  The plot sounds like something out of a 90s teenage comedy, these four girls live in Texas and are endlessly bored, so they use a squirt gun to rob a diner and then drive off to spring break for the party of their lives.  There they meet the hilariously wacky James Franco, an off-the-hook rapper/gangster and they go on a short crime spree in pink ski masks.  But then you see the movie, and that sentence transforms into:  "four desperately lost college girls violently rob a bank, go to Spring Break which is a hideous nightmare of gyrating madness, almost get sold into sexual slavery by James Franco, a grotesque nightmare of lawlessness and self-delusion, and then brutally assault and murder dozens of people as they abandon every moral and logic of the world they grew up in."

Clearly, "Spring Breakers" is not a regular movie.  The advertisements might fool some teenagers into believing they're going to see some mild escapist fun with hot chicks and maybe some gross-out humor.  But within ten minutes they'll realize they went to the wrong movie, because this isn't a parody, this is satire.  And satire of the most severe and mindbending form.  You want to break all the rules to go out and party and have fun?  Well, let's have a movie where the main characters actually break all the rules, and go so far off the deep end to pure barbarian madness that the audience doesn't know which way is up any more.  Yeah, there are gross-out moments and grotesques, but these aren't gags.  "Project X" might claim it portrays every parents' worst nightmare and everybody can have fun with it, but "Spring Breakers" isn't just your Mommy and Daddy's worst case scenario, its your own.

BlueHighwind Plays Bubsy 3D

Its the worst thing ever.  This is just me playing fifteen minutes of the game on an emulator, and I couldn't take a single second more.  More or less, this is a bonus video to the Final Fantasy VIII Let's Play, created because... I ruined a recording last night and I did this to show how terribly sorry I am.

I haven't really played any of the great legendarily bad video games like "Superman 64" or "Action 52" or anything.  But "Bubsy 3D" is a brand new step into the realm of horror.  It doesn't even feel like a real video game company made it, it feels like a terrible student project, or failed internal studio experiment that was never meant to see the inside of the light of day.  No surprise, its awful.

Hopefully I won't continue to make terribly mistakes on the FFVIII Let's Play, or else I'm going to have to find even more bad games to play as penitence.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013


Was driving fifteen miles into the dark post-apocalyptic nightmare of destitution and wild cannibalism called Pennsylvania worth it to see the new drama thriller "Stoker"?  Yes.  Yes it was.

First of all, "Stoker" is not a vampire movie.  I thought its title was a reference to "Bram Stoker", the author of the original "Dracula" novel, turns out none of the characters are vampires in any way.  Instead its a family drama film... starring murderers and psychopaths.  There are points where the movie tends to swerve into the horror genre, particularly with all the murders and mild hints of super human abilities, but it never becomes campy and it keeps its head high the entire running time, proudly creating a weird psychological adventure where you cannot be sure if the protagonist is any less insane than the apparent antagonist.  This is the first English-language film to be directed by Park Chan-wook, best known for directing the insane Korean movie, "Oldboy" and he actually did make a vampire film called "Thirst", which I haven't seen.

The title actually refers to the "Stoker Family".  If all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way, the Stokers definitely need some special note for originally.  You aren't entirely sure what is going on behind the scenes, but it is clear that there is something terribly wrong with the Stoker family, and it doesn't end with the murder of the father of our heroine, India.  India's life is turned even more upsidedown by the arrival of her mysterious Uncle Charlie, this very handsome man that clearly has some kind of deep ulterior motive and is definitely not what he seems.  He also seems to be shacking up with her mother, played by a very horny Nicole Kidman, and you aren't quite sure what India's mother knows, or if she's a Gertrude to India's Hamlet.  And India herself is a very deep enigma, played with a creepy intensity by Mia Wasikowska.  She's just a little too quite and too focused, you can tell something is very off about her.

"Stoker" is easily the best movie I've seen so far in 2013, being a serious but very deliciously twisted tale of growing up.  Just what India grows up to be is part of the fun.  I'd say it isn't perfect though, there are a few stunningly well-produced scenes and great acting and directing all around, the script really doesn't make very much sense in the end, and much of it is muddled by red herrings - and I'm not even sure if those were intentional or not.  Still, this is a much heavier time at the movies than most of the manufactured non-controversial Hollywood stuff I've been watching all year, so it definitely stands out.