Sunday, June 29, 2008

Jacqueline--Have you seen anything good lately?

Yes. In order to return to my orginal vein of Horror, I just saw the movie TEETH. Yes I am behind my fellow reviewers on this blog, but I don't get out much. So, there.

Teeth is the story of Dawn, a prim and proper virgin teenager who urges abstinence before sex to all her peers and she is also harbouring a deadly secret.

Her secret is that her vagina has teeth. I got the impression that this is a fact that she herself is not aware of entirely even when her disgusting step brother cut his finger on it in the beginning of the film. Anyway, as I watched Dawn blossom into womanhood in a blood orgy of self awareness and self acceptance, I couldn't help but reflect on my failed relationships and on how a set of teeth down there would have came in handy for all.

While the movie does have a gross out factor of 10 out of 10, it is a fine well acted and well executed movie. I only cringed twice, however. Was I entertained? Yes. Was I grossed out? Somewhat? I mean the idea might be more frightening to a man, but I was not scared. I was envious.

Jess Weixler who played Dawn won an award at Sundance for this gig that was obviously well deserved. When we finally see in the end Dawn come into acceptance about her mutation, Jess (Dawn) smiles into the camera before the screen fades to black. I was smiling too.

For what it is worth, this review wasn't shit. But if you have time and A good stomach, please see this movie. It is a lot of fun.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Review: Wanted

While reading the autobiography of professional wrestler Chris Jericho earlier this week, I learned a new term: ricockulous. This is the term for an event or object so indescribably unusual, bizarre and/or awesome that merely calling it ridiculous will not suffice. While watching "Wanted," this term repeatedly popped into my head. For example: the film opens with an assassin running through an office building in slow motion, lunging through the glass window and flying through the air to the next building over, while laying waste to a half-dozen assassins.

From this description alone, you probably have a pretty good idea of whether this movie is going to be your cup of tea or not. From the point of view of somebody who adores movies like "Shoot 'Em Up" and "Crank," this is an absolute thrill. I personally would like to think that, when director Timur Bekmambetov (say that ten times fast) pitched this movie to Universal Studios, the conversation went something like this:

Timur: Okay, so the movie is kinda like "The Matrix," but it's going to be a lot more violent, and we're going to find everything that makes action movies awesome, and throw it together.
Studio Executives: Like?
Timur: Check this shit out: Angelina Jolie's gonna be in it, and she just has to be hot and shoot people the whole time. And then, we're gonna do the bullet-time thing, but now people can curve bullets, and they can shoot each other's bullets out of the air with their bullets. Then, Morgan Freeman's going to be a complete badass...
Studio Executives: Wait. Just last summer, he was God in "Evan Almighty." How are we supposed to believe him as a killer?
Timur: Have him utter the word "motherfucker." It worked for Sam Jackson.
Studio Executives: Fair enough. Now, who's gonna be the lead?
Timur: That wussy-looking guy from "Atonement." Trust me, though. He's gonna be a beast by the end of the film.
Studio Executives: This is getting fast-tracked. Immediately.

The film essentially follows Wesley (James McAvoy), a miserable office drone whose only concern in life is his total apathy towards everything. His boss treats him like dirt, his best friend is blatantly nailing his girlfriend and he works in a cubicle, where his only daily entertainment is Googling himself and finding nothing. This all changes one night, when Fox (Jolie) shows up and saves him from an assassin out to kill him. This leads to Wesley being inducted into The Fraternity, an ancient squad of assassins that his now-deceased father joined.

As is the case with most movies like this, all is not as it seems, but the film is not about plot. It is about Wesley taking control of his life as he becomes a killing machine. This is done far better than the average action movie: we see enough of Wesley as a working stiff and then as a killer to come to actually care what happens to him. This investment in character also pays off in the last scene, which is reminiscent of both the music video for Korn's "Freak On A Leash" and the final monologue of "Trainspotting," and is a crowd-pleasing final screw-you sequence on the highest level.

The action, which is the true purpose of the movie, is incredible. The film takes its R rating and uses it to swing for the fences; at the beginning and end of a film, we see a bullet fly through a character's head, blood and all, only to fly backwards through the head in order to see its trajectory. Bekmambetov, who directed the highly popular Russian "Night Watch" series, has the kind of hyperkinetic style necessary for a film like this. He also takes Chicago and makes it look alternately like an urban wonderland and a sewer; the only continuity error comes in when the El is made to look like a bullet train.

In a summer where "Iron Man" and "The Incredible Hulk" have already upped the action film ante, "Wanted" manages to raise the bar yet again. It is, in a word, ricockulous.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Worst Movies Ever

This has been on YouTube for quite some time now, as well as VH1 and a ton of other places, but it's still funny as hell, and thus I will share it with you.

(Quick note: I've seen three of the five movies on this. Trash cinema makes my life.)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Great Soundtracks: Southland Tales

Rarely is music as integral a part of any film not related to the subject of music as it is to "Southland Tales." A big part of the reason for this is the fact that initially, director Richard Kelly intended for "Southland" to be a full-blown musical. Apparently, that was a bit too crazy for producers, and he was persuaded to make it a narrative film. Granted, the film is not only crazy, but pisses on every line of sanity as is, but even so, imagining it as a musical is not that difficult. Many of the best moments in the film, as well as some of the most resonant, are the ones involving music as a passive or active force in the scene.

Towering over the entire film is the ominous score by techno success story/cuddly vegan Moby. Never have I heard ominous tones sound more soothing or hypnotic than what Moby creates here. Nearly every scene is backed by this, and he pulls off the difficult trick of making his ambient score memorable, without it intruding on the scene. Particularly during the climactic scene (which involves a floating ice cream truck, a rift into the fourth dimension and a wigger kid with a bazooka; I wasn't lying about how whacked this movie is), the score makes the madness onscreen come off as touching and dramatic; without the music, it might very well have just been ridiculous.

Kelly also drives a lot of scenes home using well-known songs as part of scenes, both as a score to onscreen action and as part of the action itself. One sequence, in which Boxer Santaros (Dwayne "Don't Call Me The Rock Anymore" Johnson) leaves a gorgeous, palatial mansion and drives a convertible through the pouring rain, is set to Muse's "Blackout." Another, in which Boxer runs through a fog-covered subdivision in California to a slowed remix of the Pixies' classic "Wave of Mutilation." Describing this on paper (or blog, as it were) is hard, because scenes like these make "Southland" a visual and aural wonder, and the full hypnotic impact of said scenes cannot be encompassed within my comparatively mediocre descriptions.

And finally, I cannot talk about the importance of music in this film without making note of the scene that Entertainment Weekly referred to as "the year's best scene from an otherwise bad movie," and that has been the most discussed regarding the film. This is the sequence in which the film's narrator, Pilot Abilene (Justin Timberlake) shoots up on a futuristic alternative fuel source (don't ask) and slips into a fever dream, where he lip-synchs to the Killers' "All These Things That I've Done" while covered in blood, as Marilyn Monroe clones writhe around and upon him. This is the scene that elevates the movie beyond the critical comfort zone of being labeled a "head trip" and into an upper echelon of abstract cinema. Watching a scarred war veteran sing "I got soul, but I'm not a soldier" over and over again is the sort of heartbreaking image that only the movies can pull off. Also, in utilizing a well-known pop song, Kelly breaks another fourth wall (he does that frequently in the film) between the 2008 we are living in and the one depicted in the film.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Top 10 Reasons You Need To Rent "Santa's Slay"

1. Bill Goldberg, former mediocre professional wrestler, plays Santa Claus, by way of a biker. Also, he's a viking. Also, he shoots hot coal out of his mouth, as well as fire from time to time.

2. To reiterate: In this film's mythology, Santa Claus is Nordic. Apparently, he had to be good for 1,000 years after losing a curling game to an angel. I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.

3. I guess this is supposed to be a horror movie. That makes it even funnier.

4. Fran Drescher and Chris Kattan are in this movie. Okay, they didn't really have credibility to lose. However, James Caan is in this too. Wasn't he up for an Oscar once or something? Also, Emille De Ravin (the pregnant girl from "Lost") is too. She doesn't get a pass, because at least the aforementioned actors are only in the opening scene. She's a main character. In some strange way, her presence in this movie makes her hotter.

5. The major climactic fight sequence involves a portal to Hell, presumed death by zamboni and more curling. The point is, this is the coolest the sport of curling has been, is or will ever be.

6. Instead of a reindeer, Santa's sleigh takes flight by the power of a bison. Its nose still glows red, though. Oh, and at one point, Viking Santa Goldberg shifts the bison's gears into overdrive. Because, you know, animals have gears and everything.

7. A Jewish delicatessen owner is killed after being pinned to the wall with a menorah by his throat. So, not only is "Santa's Slay" awesome, but it's stereotyping fun for the whole family!

8. In the opening scene, Viking Santa Goldberg bursts through a concrete wall without breaking a sweat. Later, he spends about thirty seconds trying to break through a glass door.

9. When a character is impaled onto a flagpole, the EMT who shows up busts out a circular saw to cut him off. If that's actually standard procedure, then I never thought I'd say this, but EMTs are actually kinda metal.

10. Viking Santa Goldberg punts one of those little furball dogs within the first five minutes. Should this be funny? Probably not. Is it? Oh, hell yeah.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Review: The Happening

(At the end of the day, this warning won't matter much, but there are major SPOILERS ahead.)

I wanted to like "The Happening," I really did. Ever since I saw "The Sixth Sense" as a younger kid, I've been a huge fan of M. Night Shyamalan. "Unbreakable" is still one of the most underrated big-studio films ever, and the man has a true gift for suspense/horror storytelling. Even when "The Village" ripped off its twist ending from a young adult novel, I stuck by him. I even enjoyed "Lady In The Water" quite a bit, and spent many a night arguing its merits against the vast majority of people who absolutely hated it. Therefore, it is with a heavy heart that I say that I have absolutely no defense for "The Happening." Frankly, it's pretty terrible.

The film surrounds Elliot and Alma Moore (Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel), a couple on the verge of divorce, who are reunited by a global crisis. Namely, the fact that something is happening (See what I did there? I'll be here 'till Thursday...) that is causing people to commit suicide in extravagant, horror film-friendly fashion. For reasons never really explained, instead of hiding indoors until the danger passes (why this would work, I'll get to in a minute), they opt to head across the northeast United States in search of safety, answers and a plot. They fail to find any of the above.

I could probably write a small book on the ways in which this film fails, but I'll hone in on the most glaring instances. For one, Wahlberg and Deschanel have absolutely no chemistry as a couple, or even as lead actors. Wahlberg periodically tries to bail the film out, but to no avail. I have as much a crush on Deschanel as the next film geek, but this is one of those roles that might force her to negotiate the indie circuit for a while, and will render her box office kryptonite for studio films. To be fair, though, pretty much everybody in this movie will suffer a similar fate, except for Wahlberg, if only because he has an Oscar nomination to his credit. The acting is so audaciously wooden that one has to really wonder exactly who watched this film and figured it warranted being designated as a summer tentpole release. If this is what passes as a quality horror film to studio executives, a lot will start to make sense regarding the state of movies today.

The best sequences in the film, relatively speaking, are the gruesome suicide sequences, of which there are at once a great amount and not enough. One sequence, in which a man calmly feeds himself to lions, belongs in a better movie. The same could be said for most of the horror sequences; even in a film this terrible, Shyamalan still knows how to frame a shock sequence. Occasionally, the audience is even lulled into thinking that the film is about to pick up. This never happens, which leads me to my next point.

If Shyamalan's seeming disregard for putting effort into anything but the violent sequences put the gun in the mouth of this movie, the screenplay pulls the trigger. If questions can be raised about who allowed this film to be released, I'm even more intrigued by the idea of who read the script and thought it was a good idea. The only reason writing this god-awful got through, most likely, is owing to the fact that Shyamalan wrote the screenplay himself. Had some unknown submitted this to the studio, it would likely have only existed for the sake of being passed around as an inter-office joke. Dialogue more or less only exists in the film when it serves the purpose of exposition, and even then, it seems like it was written by a college student in an introductory screenwriting class, who's never watched a horror movie or written anything before.

Let it be known that I'm not taking pleasure in lighting into this film. I think Shyamalan just needs to adapt a screenplay, rather than writing his own material. The man has talent, but something has gone terribly awry. Why not revisit those rumors of his directing the film adaptation of "Life of Pi"? A story like that would be perfectly suited to his talents. At the end of the day, though, "The Happening" is his first true directorial misfire, in virtually every way. With every one of his other films, I left the theater saying "". With this one, all I could muster was "Umm...what?"

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Incredible Mr. Norton

I think I've stated before on this blog that I am always and forever a DC fan. But the Marvel industry has really upped their game with the recent releases of Iron Man and more recently The Incredible Hulk. What I really love about these Marvel movies is how everything ties together. Marvel has a plan! Whoa! For those who don't know, Marvel has decided to release a series of comic book movies to prepare audiences for an Avengers movie (think Justice League, but Marvel). So we have a possible Captain America and Thor movie in our future before or shortly after the Avengers movie. Way to go Marvel.
It just always seems that DC can't keep up when it comes to film. Catwoman? Superman Returns? No thanks. If you haven't seen it yet, go check out The Incredible Hulk. Making a brute monster into a kind creature can be tough apparently, since The Hulk couldn't have blew more. But The Incredible Hulk really does up the ante, combined with an awesome plot and awesome acting. Norton trying to bring the industry from the fucking cellar door, if you know what I mean. If you don't know what I mean, click here.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Film Review: The Strangers

Today, I had my choice of seeing 3 movies at the theatre: War, Inc., The Happenings, and THE STRANGERS. My date chose to see the latter with me and boy was he disappointed.

Starring Liv Tyler (Lord of the Rings) and Scott Speedman (Underworld: Evolution), The Strangers is about a young couple who throughout one terrifying night are reduced to terror, panic and survival by three sadistic, masked strangers.

One is wearing what looks like a potato sack over his head, one is blond and is wearing a betty boop face mask and the other is wearing a cupie doll mask. You never find out their identities. Even by the end of the film, the audience is left to ponder just who were these sick people?

Yeah, I know what reason was given for the slaughter: "Why are you doing this to us," says Kristin.

"Because you were home," says the masked blond. But WHO were they?

They certainly weren't cannibals, sex maniacs or creatures from the deep.

So, WHO were they?

I don't have an answer. At the sound of Liv Tyler's final scream and then the usual cut to black I was left feeling pretty empty inside. (my wallet too was empty)

Did I just waste my money again. No.

This film could have been worse. We have a high caliber actress in Liv Tyler who lights up the screen in everything she does. Liv Tyler knows how to show terror and she plays up every scream until the final cut beatifully. Scott Speedman shines as a normal guy just trying to protect what is his and keep his wits about him. A far cry from the superhuman werevamp hybrid I am used to seeing him play. Together, their chemistry fizzled (no they did not sizzle), i.e. I did not see enough passion between these two young lovers to care enough about them in the beginning. However, in their final scenes, when they are both about to be torn asunder with a butcher knife, there was some sympathy for them from me. You have to see the movie to know what I am talking about.

Which brings me back to the three masked strangers. You hardly see them early on, but when you do, they leave a cinematic impact on you. I tried to imagine myself in Kristin and James places during the film. This kind of thing doesnot happen everyday but it does happen. People kill people. Most of the time a person dies by the hands of someone they know, but there are murders that happen along because that victim is just there to kill. And that is a frightening concept.

This was writer/directer BRYAN BERTINO first outing behind the camera, and it honestly was a good one. I want more from this guy. More than that, I feel as though I am untitled to it. It is not everyday I go see a thriller and come out feeling less than thrilled and write a review like this, but I am willing to let $9.00 movie tickets be bygones and patiently wait and see what Bryan Bertino can do.

I'm Waiting.