Friday, July 27, 2007

An Evening With Black Sheep

Last Friday a gang of us ventured into center-city Philadelphia for the opening show of writer-director Jonathan King's Black Sheep. I'd been jonesing to see the movie since we met Jonathan in Wellington two months before; now, it was finally here and we were going to witness the fruits of his labor.

With Tom and Jessica in front, and Jenifer, the Ray Gun Kid, and I huddled in back, we passed through a sunny, jogger-filled Fairmount Park, where I pointed out a surprising monument in Boathouse Row: Einar Jónsson’s elegant statue of Viking explorer Thorfinn Karlsefni.

After parking and pictures by the poster, we walked through Philadelphia's Old City, a livable, historic downtown that was closer in atmosphere to the international capitals I'd visited in the last two years than I thought possible for an American city. We slipped into El Fuego, purveyor of California-style burritos, minutes before closing. I placed our order before experiencing my second non-near-death experience in a year, managing to lock myself in the lavatory. Honestly, I don't know how this happened. (The other fun time involved a kayak in three feet of water.)

My companions are downing their food under the digital thunder and blare of Entourage and I’m screaming futilely for help from within the claustrophobic and very, very orange confines of a chamber of doom the size of a telephone booth. Praying for someone to display the temerity to take a leak before the restaurant closes for the night, I finally jigger the malevolent locking mechanism and stagger back through the dark industrial recesses to our table. I’m momentarily shaken, and wonder if this is the appropriate frame of mind for contending with the horror of a flock of genetically altered zombie sheep.

Afterwards we pause for the sake of digestion and the automated lightshow at Independence Hall before making our way to the theater, the Ritz at the Bourse. This is the kind of place that displays slides of paintings by local artists before the show rather than the typical Sturm und Drang of a Regal Cinema FirstLook infomercial. And then, the film.

Black Sheep is being billed as a horror-comedy. I'm not especially a horror fan, never have been, and until gaining more sense as an adult was not much of a comedy aficionado, either, subjecting my junior-high-school crew to such snappy, light fare as Dune and Firefox. (And no, I still haven't seen—just for example—Caddy Shack or Police Academy—not that I’m equating them, mind you.) So, the category of horror-comedy is not one in which I’m well versed, the only example I’ve seen being Shaun of the Dead.

Black Sheep is a lot of fun. It’s a real crowd-pleaser, funnier than it is horrific, and features solid performances by Nathan Meister as Henry, the jittery co-inheritor of a sheep farm, and Danielle Mason as Experience, an activist turned sheep fighter, as well as cool and creepy special effects by Weta Workshop. And there was something else that was quite unexpected for a genre movie grounded in gore: it’s really charming.

Black Sheep is in limited release, so check for U.S. locations here (it opens in Australia in August and the U.K. in October).

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Blogger Brett said...

I think what comes through is the sense of someone having a truly wonderful time doing something he loves on a project he cares about.

In that regard BLACK SHEEP has buckets more heart and soul than the sum total of half the crap oozing out of Hollywood these days.

If that's what you mean by "charming," then yeah, I agree. ;-)


11:47 PM  
Anonymous Eric D. Lehman said...

The Ritz at the Bourse is really nice - I saw the 4 hr full version of Hamlet there, complete with intermission. Go, Fortinbras! Conquer those, maybe this isn't the right blog for that sort of comment.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous JIM said...

Ya........ I was there when the boat took on water......... HO
A Man from Maine, JIM

9:28 PM  
Blogger Ryan Rasmussen said...

Brett: Absolutely. That sense is what I really responded to. BLACK SHEEP has heart in spades.

Eric: Fortin-who? I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about. As for the theater -- if only it were closer!

Jim: Indeed you were, thanks!

7:27 PM  

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