Wednesday, December 4, 2013


(US - 2013)

A cult movie simply by virtue of an absurdly belated US release, the slasher thriller ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE was shot in 2006 and shown at that year's Toronto Film Festival, where it was acquired by Dimension Films and promptly shelved by the Weinsteins following the disappointing box office reception of GRINDHOUSE.  It was released in most of the rest of the world in 2008 and Dimension sold the US rights to the doomed Senator Entertainment, who went bankrupt not long after that, leaving the film in legal limbo.  Years later, the Weinsteins re-acquired the film--long available in bootleg circles--and finally dumped it on VOD and in a few theaters in September 2013.  Debuting director Jonathan Levine, who has since gone on to make THE WACKNESS (2008), 50/50 (2011), and WARM BODIES (2013), and first-time screenwriter Jacob Forman really try to fashion a sort of self-referential slasher film, but unfortunately, the end results aren't all that different or any deeper than any random post-SCREAM or I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER knockoff.  The story centers on a group outing at an isolated ranch where, among the expected group of unlikable teenagers, is one Mandy Lane (Amber Heard), an unattainable virgin who's lusted after by all the boys, from the jocks, to the stoners, to the dorks.  Nine months earlier, one such boy--an overconfident football star looking to impress her--drunkenly took a dive off of his roof at the goading of Mandy's platonic best friend Emmett (Michael Welch, who went on to the TWILIGHT films).  The in-crowd blames Emmett for his death and even Mandy distances herself from him.  Meanwhile, out at the ranch, someone is offing the group--which includes Luke Grimes, who was recently cast in FIFTY SHADES OF GREY--one by one in various gory ways in an apparent quest to prove their love for Mandy Lane.

MANDY LANE takes forever to get going and by the time it finally finds some momentum in the home stretch, it's too late to really care.  The killer's identity is so obvious--and Levine and Forman don't keep it a secret very long--that you'll have plenty of time to figure out the inevitable twist long before it's revealed.  The filmmakers wanted to make a John Hughes homage in the form of a slasher film, but with one foot in the art-house and the other in the grindhouse, it doesn't really work as either, and by the time Levine breaks out the '70s-style freeze-frames in the climax, you might find the hipster cred-pandering more annoying than anything.  There's an admirable nastiness to some of the brutal murders, and the camera does indeed love Amber Heard, but there's really nothing here--certainly not a long-buried cult classic waiting to be discovered.  Were it not for its bumpy ride to a US release, ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE (a great title, by the way) would be a long-forgotten straight-to-DVD title cluttering $3 DVD bins at Big Lots locations nationwide by now.  Instead, it'll be there by spring. (R, 90 mins)

(Chile/Germany/Italy/Spain/Switzerland - 2013)

Based on a novel by the late Chilean literary icon Roberto Bolano, THE FUTURE is an always-interesting but curiously empty art film that often feels like a present-day update to classic Italian cinema of the 1960s and 1970s.  Taking place in an economically uncertain Rome, writer/director Alicia Scherson often channels the aura of Antonioni ennui and disconnect with its power lines, cell phone towers, and emphasis on artifice, while one of the central characters lives in the kind of decaying mansion-doubling-as-a-tomb that seems to come straight out of a Luchino Visconti/Burt Lancaster collaboration.  The film is called THE FUTURE, but everyone is haunted by the past, as 19-year-old Bianca (Manuela Martelli) and her younger teenage brother Tomas (Luigi Ciardo) find themselves orphaned in Rome when their Chilean immigrant parents are killed in a tragic car accident.  Given an orphans' pension, the pair continue to live in their family apartment as Bianca is declared Tomas' legal guardian.  The money isn't as much as they'd hoped, and Bianca is forced to get a job as an assistant in a hair salon, while Tomas, when he isn't picking up sex tips from watching porn courtesy of their illegal cable hookup, frequently skips school to help clean up at a local gym.  It's here where Tomas meets two new "friends," personal trainers Libio (Nicolas Vaporidis) and Bolones (Alessandro Giallocosta), a pair of dubious meatheads who basically move into Bianca and Tomas' place and take turns sleeping with Bianca.  As money gets tighter, Libio and Bolones hatch a get-rich-quick scheme:  have Bianca pose as a prostitute and ingratiate herself into the life of Maciste (Rutger Hauer), a blind and reclusive former Mr. Universe and '60s muscleman actor who's rumored to have a safe filled with a large amount of cash.  Maciste, who adopted the name of his character ("They changed it to Hercules in America," he explains), lives alone in a massive, decrepit mansion, surrounded by workout equipment and relics of his past, and becomes a sexual mentor to young Bianca, who finds herself falling in love with the worldly old man ("Don't be silly," Maciste grumbles) and wanting to back out of the plan to rob his safe.

Plotting isn't Scherson's primary focus with THE FUTURE.  It's more about mood and feel, with a mournful, elegiac sense of Rome's cultural history (Bianca takes a tour of Cinecitta and visits the sets of Maciste's old movies, and footage from 1962's THE FURY OF HERCULES has Brad Harris being passed off as a young Hauer/Maciste).  Bianca never feels at home in Rome, which gives her a spiritual kinship with Maciste, who came to Italy to work and simply never left, shutting himself off from the world after a car accident that cost him his sight.  Martelli is good in the lead and her frequent nude scenes, as Maciste drenches her in massage oil, should make her popular on Mr. Skin.  Hauer, so awful in Dario Argento's recent DRACULA, gets to display some genuine star power here.  He's done so many money gigs and C-grade trash over the years that it's easy to forget how terrific he can be.  As Maciste, Hauer gets to sink his teeth into a strong late-career role that any aging actor wants (it probably didn't hurt that he'd have a nude, oiled-up Martelli--30 but playing 19--straddling him for a good chunk of his screen time), and he delivers his best performance in years, even with a ridiculous line like "What's the color of my sperm?"  THE FUTURE is well-acted and lovely to look at it (have I mentioned the massage oil and the nudity?), and it's rare to see something these days that harkens back to the likes of Antonioni and Visconti, but it's not a particularly deep film, which is surprising given the complexity of much of Bolano's writing.  The few attempts at significance in some of Bianca's narration only succeed in coming across as hackneyed and pretentious.  Still, there's a lot to appreciate in THE FUTURE, and it should be required viewing for Rutger Hauer fans.  (Unrated, 99 mins)

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