Saturday, March 29, 2008

Film Review: HABIT

In my opinion, Love on the rebound is hard on the soul.

In the 1997 independent feature HABIT, this point is illustrated with a benign supernatural twist.

In HABIT, we meet Sam, a down on his luck, alcoholic drifter who has just lost his father whom he was estranged from and broken up with his live in girlfriend Liza.
On the rebound, and down on his luck, he meets Anna. Anna is nocturnal, sexual and full of blood lust. She and Sam have sex almost immediately after they meet each other (during which she bites his lip, dips her finger in the bite and sucks his blood).

Overtime, certain physical changes happen to Sam and he becomes further withdrawn from his friends and his ex Liza and the real world. He begins to feel like he is losing his mind, and when he tries to end things with Anna--well that doesn't go over well with Anna (did I mention she was aggressive and slightly possessive too).

Sam and Anna are played by Larry Fessenden and Meredith Snaider, respectively. They exhibit raw physical chemistry together on screen. It is very powerful. And a little confusing. Sam, with one tooth missing, bad hair, and less than Olympiad build is not America's Man's man. A guy like this would be lucky to have anyone in reality, let alone the mysterious and beautiful Anna. He is moody, and emotionally distant, and Anna wakes him up.

They are a mismatched pair and for story purposes it works.

Each encounter changes Sam and alters his perceptions a little bit at a time. His drug of choice becomes Anna, whose every bite is as addicting as sex. Anna's hold over Sam is parasitic, but is she (as Sam begins to suspect) a vampire? You never really know the answer to that question.

I liked this movie, because so much is left to the imagination of the viewer. And being on the rebound is something anyone (yes even I, ha ha) can relate to. You just want to cling to something or someone sometimes and fill a void left by the other person or thing that you lost.

So, if you can handle the almost porn like sex scenes, and plot holes, (like why did Liza and Sam really break up and does Anna actually kill her?) you might just enjoy this film.

You might develop a taste for it. That will become like a habit.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Next Next Next Generation

I won't lie. I'm not a big Star Trek fan. In fact, I think I've seen three episodes of the show during my lifetime, and that only happened because we didn't have cable at my mom's house and out of boredom I watched them. However, J.J. Abrams's revival of the franchise has me intrigued.

Abrams is like a God of mass cinema. With hits like the television series "Lost" and films M.I.3 (don't knock it 'til you see it) and Cloverfield, he's shown the power of his production company and his directing abilities. He's always able to entertain, despite the occasional appearance of Tom Cruise. Now I know nothing about the characters featured in Star Trek, but I think the cast of this looks sweet. It's mostly under the radar actors, with the exception of Eric Bana and Winona Ryder, which I think works well when you're redoing a franchise. Bana and Ryder have major parts but aren't the main players Kirk and Spock. Who needs an A-list actor to pull of Star Trek? You're guaranteed number one at the box office the day you come out from the Trekkie tickets alone. This is like Star Wars, only not as cool (please don't kill me). And Simon Pegg is Scotty. How awesome/appropriate is that?! Seeing how the Bad Robot team handled the publicity for Cloverfield, I expect some awesome teaser trailers and viral campaigning.

This might be the one thing that gets me into Star Trek. But I'm just saying, I'll always be Han's girl.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Film Review: Nightmares

"Somewhere between the real and unreal, between the world of daylight and the dark of night, between the peaceful sleep of dreams and the endless sleep of death . . . lay NIGHTMARES."

Picture it kiddies, 1983. I was six years old and we just got a little thing called cable hooked up in mom and dads room and an ATARI 2600 in my brother's room. We didn't want to go to bed early, we just had to stay up and watch HBO. And then it came on.

Sometimes a movie(like a single significant moment in time) can stay with you forever. Such as it was with me and NIGHTMARES.

Directed by Joseph Sargent, and Starring Veronica Cartwright (ALIEN, SCARY MOVIE 2, CANDYMAN 2) Emilio Estevez (THE BREAKFAST CLUB) and LANCE HENRIKSEN (ALIEN, NEAR DARK, MILLENNIUM, etc.) Nightmares is 99 minutes of modern horror told in four seperate tales complete with sinister music and typical 1980s style special effects.

It was originally made for TV, but deemed to harsh for prime time. The film is rated R (in my younger days, that meant the film was cool).

Emilio and Lance star in the second and third vignettes. Emilio plays a misunderstood teen named JJ who was obsessed with video games and punk rock music. JJ is like unto a god at his local video arcade and his main obsession was making it to level 13 in his favorite game the Bishop of Battle. Well, after fighting with his parents he runs away from home and breaks into the arcade to play all night. When he reaches the mythical 13th level the game comes to life and tries to take him out. As a kid, this part was so disturbing, but fun to watch as his joystick becomes a real Buck Rogers style laser pistol. (It was 2d graphic mayhem for a good 10-12 minutes. Not CG saturated like BEOWULF, but this was fun to see again.) In the end (Spoiler), JJ tries to run away and is swallowed by the Bishop (literally). The next morning his best friend and parents look all over town for JJ. They finally make it to the Arcade. The last we see of JJ is him slowly fading away into the video game screen with an ominous voice saying: "I am the Bishop of Battle. I have thirteen progressively harder levels. Try me if you dare. Please insert coin."

Henriksen story opens with a nightmare. He plays a priest who questions his faith in God and can know longer continue as a parish priest. He sees signs of evil all around him and no signs of good. He dreams he is tending a garden and stops to feed a fawn. The baby deer is bitten by a rattlesnake. He angrily chops up the snake and picks it up and throws it into the air where it disappears. His hand is burned and covered with blood. He awakes screaming. When he leaves his parish, defeated and dressed in street clothing, he takes a canister of blessed tap water with him because "He needs it to drive across the desert in a car with no air conditioning".
Mistake in judgement? Not really.

As he travels the lonely desert road, he is attacked at every turn by a demonic pick up truck (yes, a black demonic pick up truck). This thing of seemingly benign malevolence kicks his ass all over the desert and totals his car. As it is about to run him down, he throws the "tap water" at the truck (beast) and it screams and disappears. His faith is restored and he returns to his parish.

I love the way this movie takes the harmless little things of life (videogames, a trip to the store, a suburban rodent infestation)and makes the twisted, terrifying, and dark. I am seeing this film for the first time in years again and it still creeps me out. YES! Or maybe it is just a long forgotten memory in me that still remembers what real fear is.

The music, the atmosphere, the acting all made for a great story telling. And that is what horror is for. Yes gladiator, I am entertained.

WTF!?: Akira

The anime film Akira is a classic, as well as the graphic novel that inspired it. I'm a huge fan, and that actually reminds me some punk has my DVD. Need to get that back...regardless, it's a fantastic film. And now I'm scared because apparently they want to make it into a two-part live action film.

Ruairi Robinson is directing the two films, and his previous shorts show he might be able to pull this off. His work is gritty and violent, kinda like Akira. He's apparently pitched the film as a cross between Blade Runner and City of God. Blade Runner is a fitting film to go with in making this, especially since they plan on Americanizing the story and changing the setting from post-apocolyptic Toyko to New Manhattan.

Leonardo Di Caprio and Jason Gordan Levitt are attached, with Leo also producing alongside the Warner Brothers crew. Jason Gordan is rumored to be playing Tetsuo, the leader of a motorcycle gang who gains psychokinetic powers. Leo is playing the main character Kaneda. The adapters plan on going back to the original magna rather than the anime script, which will be a lot more detailed. The two films should provided more back story and build-up than the anime film.

But honestly, how the hell is this going to work? The anime is so surreal and futuristic that I think special effects would take away from the overall ambiance surrounding the story. Who the hell would Leo play? How the hell would this work? How are they going to pull of the ending? Is this going to be like all those shitty remakes of Japanese horror films?


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Review: Funny Games

Much ado has been (and, I guarantee, will be) made about "Funny Games", Austrian director Michael Haneke's shot-for-shot remake of his own 1997 film about an upper-class family whose vacation home is sieged by a pair of hyper-polite, indescribably cruel psychopaths, and now, it has hit theaters. So, what's to be made of Haneke's experiment?

Let me preface my review by saying that I understand what Haneke is trying to accomplish here, I really do. However, I'm more in league with critic Josh Larsen's perspective on the matter: "If the pot means to call the kettle black in order to make a larger point, that still doesn't change the pot's color." Haneke goes for broke trying to show American audiences how our thirst for cinematic violence has led to films like "Hostel", but in the process, he's created a piece of torture porn more laborious and brutal than anything that's come before it. And no, I'm not exaggerating. Just because you release your film in art-house theaters doesn't mean that it's art.

Once the young men, Paul and Peter (Michael Pitt and Brady Corbett) make their way into the house, the early uneasiness that the film conjures goes out the window. After assaulting George (Tim Roth) with a golf club, they take him, along with his wife Ann (Naomi Watts) and son George (Devon Gearhart) into the living room, and make a mocking bet: they wager that the family will be dead by 9:00 the next morning. Psychological and physical torture ensues, occasionally with both in play at once.

This is pretty much as far as the plot goes, for we then witness an hour and a half of absolute madness. I had difficulty sitting through much of this film, and this is coming from somebody who speaks favorably of both "A Clockwork Orange" and "The Devil's Rejects", two films that look like child's play next to this. Haneke goes to great pains to subvert horror cliches, and it sparingly works. Undoubtedly, the most disarming moments of the film are when Pitt's character looks at the camera and directly addresses the audience in the middle of scenes, which serves to break that ever-comfortable fourth wall audiences have, that which allows us to tell ourselves "it's only a movie". However, this is a trick that belongs in a better film. Most of the film taboos broken only make this more disgusting. One sequence between Gearhart and Pitt might be the most nauseating example of child endangerment ever caught on film, and (spoiler warning) when Ann is killed, it is done so casually you almost miss her death entirely, which I guess is Haneke's way of showing us that the popularity of an actor should not dictate their ending.

The most brutal sequences of the film are kept offscreen, which supporters of this film say keeps Haneke from being a hypocrite, and which I say is his cowardly attempt to keep himself feeling more righteous than the audience he's judging (and which is also paying for his film, but I digress). He really lays the anti-American sentiment on thick, especially in the final discussion in the film, between Peter and Paul, where they talk about how murder is murder, whether in reality or fiction, and that fiction might be the more real of the two. Ha-ha.

I could ramble on and on about the levels on which this film fails, but I would be rehashing a tired point, and then I'd be no better than Haneke, so I'll simply say that there is no purpose for this film, other than to manipulate audiences and try to lay on a guilt-trip so hackneyed that "Babel" looks sincere by comparison. This might be the most blatant example I've ever seen of an artist being given free reign to do whatever he wants, and flying off the rails beyond recovery. Trash like this proves why general audiences won't watch foreign films.

(One final note. According to Haneke, he wanted to remake his film in order to prove a point to Americans who abide cinematic trash. The fact is, as someone who loved "Grindhouse" and watches professional wrestling, I'm evidently the sort of ignorant peon that Haneke is wagging his finger at. I can still sleep easily, because I will continue to be happy with my cinematic comfort food, and he will continue to be a pretentious hack, and we will both be sticking to what we know.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

30 Days of Night

I had waited and waited and prayed for this film to come. I finally go home and put it into my mini DVD player (small but intimate), and I watched.

The hype behind this picture touts that it is the 'scariest vampire movie ever made'.

I, on the other hand, feel used. No. I feel like a tool. This was not that scary. It was not even terrifying like the graphic novels.

I felt like I was watching 28 Days Later again. Bored. Everything about this cinematic experience was anti-climatic.

I question why I buy into so much hype all the time. The Blair Witch, Kindred: the Embraced, 28 Days Later, and now my favorite read 30 Days of night has become monuments to my shame.

My shame is that I will buy into anything with a fang and some blood (or an unknown bump in the night)in it.

I did not like the way this story was rewritten for the silver screen:

1. Stella and Eben were in love in the books. In the movie, they are a seperated and on the virge of divorce.

2. Josh Hartnett, while a great actor, was not suited to play Eben. Just too cute, I guess, but that is my opinion. I would have chosen someone less boyish looking and more mature.

3. Eben has no brother to lose in this story. Why did they add a character and then erase everything else?

4. Marlowe, Iris, Lilith, had more lines in the graphic novels and did not speaks in howls and grunts. They were perfect consumate killing machines with brains who knew english.

Maybe I am asking to much, but when you adapt a story for the silver screen it should be done more respectfully.

My name is Jacqueline and I am just saying.

Friday, March 7, 2008

New Watchmen pics!

As you all know, or maybe don't know, I'm been obsessing over the new Watchmen movie. After revealing some set pics last year, Zac Snyder (who might actually not be fucking this up) has released promo pics of the costumed Watchmen team on the production blog. And might I say, this movie is shaping up to be pretty good! Well, at least I hope so. Otherwise, a castration's in order.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Film Review: BEOWULF

AH YES, a tale for the ages. Heroes, demons, dragons, angelina jolie dripping in gold. BEOWULF.

Directed by Robert ZEMECKIS and co-written by Neil Gaiman, the movie BEOWULF full of action and thrills. This is not a PIXAR-ish animated tale, but deals out a classic fable with mature themes and is definately not for children.

Written in the 7th century, BEOWULF is the story of a hero on a quest to the far off land of Denmark to rid it of the monstrous Grendel. The story says that after Beowulf defeats Grendel, he kills the creatures mother, and then in his old age dies slaying a dragon underwater (the dragon is a descendant of Grendel's mother).


The 21st Century BEOWULF, while he is a computer generated bad ass, does have faults. He is proud, boastful, and greedy; 'fallible and flawed'. He is not what he was romanticised to be in the poem, but after all the toughness and bravado, Beowulf is just a man.

Giving such a larger than life character such human qualities is what endeared me to this movie in the first place. Beowulf is the basis of all legends like King Arthur, Lord of the Rings, Conan the Barbarian, etc. Being the oldest, it is about time a movie was made a about him that answered some questions that were never answered by that poem.

Who was Grendel's Father? And where did that dragon come from? Why was Beowulf given a kingdom so freely?

Why not see the movie and decided for yourself. It is a good time to be had by all. So, grab a cup of golden mead and some popcorn. Enjoy.