The Devil's Rejects diverges from its predecessor beginning with its opening frames, in which the depiction of the Firefly residence - no longer a remote, forest-shrouded funhouse of horrors but, rather, a dilapidated structure situated in a stretch of open land - speaks to the film's rejection of atmospheric claustrophobia in favor of wide-open anarchy. A fascination with rampant disorder certainly fuels the tour de force intro sequence, a bullet-strewn siege on the Firefly home by Sheriff Wydell (Forsythe) and an army of police officers heightened by Zombie's sly use of freeze frames, Sergio Leone-esque close-ups, and The Allman Brothers' "Midnight Rider." Exhibiting a directorial maturity devoid of his former MTV-ish gimmickry (no hyper-edited montages with varying film stocks or bludgeoning industrial heavy metal here), the director orchestrates the chaotic events with feverish abandon, his shaky handheld camera set-ups and scraggly, sun-bleached cinematography (courtesy of Phil Parmet) placing us directly inside the carnage. By the time murderous siblings Otis (Bill Moseley) and Baby (Sheri Moon) escape their now overrun home to seek shelter in the rotting, blindingly white desert, Zombie has demonstrated a newfound adeptness at lacing nasty action with a breakneck thrust and vicious wit.
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Smile charts the progress of a round of finals for the fictitious Young American Miss pageant being held in Santa Rosa, California. The civic force behind this event is a community-minded car salesman named Big Bob Freelander (Bruce Dern), a yokel with good intentions, an abiding optimism, and an inexhaustible reserve of clichéd bromides about the importance of a positive attitude. Brenda DiCarlo (Barbara Feldon) acts as pageant coordinator and den mother to the young contestants; her husband Andy's suicidal tendencies are exacerbated, rather than quelled, by all the forced goodwill she radiates and by the pageant's general, bright, can-do American vibe. Big Bob, especially, finds this mystifying - what on Earth is there to be blue about in a land of such copious opportunity and beautiful young women such as ours? - and the best advice he can muster for his desperate friend is to "go out there and have some fun."
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Jan Kounen, the Dutch cause celebre responsible for the hyperactive cult film Dobermann, tackles the epic story of Blueberry with a careful, almost blissed out style - much to the dismay of fans of his earlier work. Blueberry is a meditative work, a somnambulist's ramble through western history and psychedelica. The film is slowly paced but crescendos in a special effects blowout, a literal celluloid peyote trip, which would make Alejandro Jodorowsky jump with joy. (That isn't a random aside, Blueberry is as close an homage to Jodorowsky's El Topo as a big budget western can get.)
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A belated, Tarantino-spawn crime caper picture packed with highly contrived, high-caliber gunplay and other bursts of meaningless creativity, "The Way of the Gun" is the gritty and stylish, but hollow and hyperbolic, directorial debut of "The Usual Suspects" screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie.
A tangled and twisty yarn of dastardly deeds and double-crosses, the plot begins with a conversation between two bodyguards charged with protecting a surrogate mother (Juliette Lewis), who is carrying a baby for a crooked L.A. millionaire and his frigid, disinterested trophy wife.
Eavesdropping are a pair of glum petty thugs (Ryan Phillippe and Benicio Del Toro) who concoct, on the spot, a scheme to kidnap the woman and ransom the unborn kid for the kind of money they always thought they deserved but could never procure with their small-time villainy.
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