Archive for July, 2012

Monica Bellucci

This Italian goddess first came to my attention in France’s Brotherhood of the Wolf. She followed that up with a riveting performance in Gaspar Noe’s shocking Irreversible. She’s since been featured in smaller roles in The Matrix trilogy and Shoot ‘Em Up. Most notably of late she starred in 2009’s Don’t Look Back with the gorgeous Sophie Marceau.

She’s a leggy beautiful woman and a hell of an actress. Not a bad combination.

If you see this woman, tell her I love her.

The urban dictionary defines NERD RAGE as a term used to describe extreme anger, offence, indignation, and other similar emotions by a nerd, geek or similar which can be triggered upon seeing a favorite film/show/comic book/etc degraded or insulted in some way

As I sit down to write this, a little motion picture is 5 hours away from midnight premieres around the country.  Maybe you’ve heard of it.  Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises promises to close out, for better or worse, the epic trilogy that began in 2005 with Batman Begins.  It is a highly anticipated film that is certain to make hundreds of millions of dollars across the globe.  But is it any good?

Hell, I don’t know.  I haven’t seen it.  All I’ve got to go on is my gut and the smattering of reviews from press screenings I’ve read.  There is no way in hell I wouldn’t catch this flick.  I don’t care if some dude’s review told me that watching it would give me cancer.  Everything gives you cancer.  I’d still be there with bells on.  Granted my attire would be a far stretch from the batshoes, batshirt, and batboxers I wore to Tim Burton’s Batman in 1989 but that’s a different story for a different day.  My point is that some movies are simply review proof and the last of Nolan’s Bat-series is just such a film as far as I’m concerned.

Some people are not quite as forgiving when it comes to reviews though.  Marshall Fine reviews for his website, Hollywood & Fine.  He is a contributing reviewer to the movie review aggregate site Rotten Tomatoes and his was the first negative one for The Dark Knight Rises that was published on the site.  It was followed almost immediately by a flood of hate filled vitriol from anonymous commenters that included actual threats of violence.  Never mind that 99% of those commenting had not actually seen the film.  He had dared to speak ill of their sacred cow, a crime punishable by death some felt.  Rotten Tomatoes shut down their comment section and the bloodthirsty mob then flocked to Fine’s website, crashing that.  Since the review was published, Mr. Fine’s site is back up and he’s seems to be handling the attention quite admirably.

This morning, over at Ain’t It Cool News, the self-professed ‘headgeek’ Harry Knowles published a scathing review of the film after leaving an Imax screening last night.  Harry’s no stranger when it comes to ill-received reviews be they blisteringly negative or hyperbolical positive.

I dont’ really have any problem with Harry not liking the movie.  He’s entitled to an opinion.  I do however have a problem with Harry’s style of ‘reviewing.’  I question the method he uses to form his opinions, the motives behind those opinions, and the shockingly unprofessional manner in which he delivers them.  So, I’ve come to view them for what they’re worth, an occassionally amusing often frustrating view into the mind of a…unique individual.

Others have not been as generous.  AICN Talkbacks (their version of a message board) are often filled with disparaging comments aimed at Harry.  Those insults are just as often balanced with actual considered retorts to the rotund redhead’s oft rambling rhetoric. The response to this review was no different.  Many of the 500 (and growing) posts take great pains to crucify Harry and insult him on a personal level.  There’s nothing constructive about them.  At this point, I would imagine Harry’s got pretty thick skin.  I doubt he’s too terribly upset by the reaction.

You know whose review I’m really looking forward to reading?  Armond White.

White is a New York based film critic who has developed quite a following because of his contrarian views of movies.  Chances are that if every other member of his ilk liked a film, he will loathe it.  Chances are even more likely that if everyone hated it, he will praise it.  He’s a very calculating man.  I don’t take a damn thing he says seriously.  But I sure as hell enjoy reading it.  He will almost certainly hate this concluding chapter of the series.  I can’t wait to see why.

So, what’s the point of all this then?  Why even bother reading film review?  The simple fact of the matter is that not one single reviewer is completely able to distance themselves from a film and judge it solely on its own merits.  Every opinion of a movie is colored by any number of factors:  the mood  one was in while watching it, inevitable comparisons to other movies like it or previous films in a series, illness, fatigue, etc.  That in and of itself does not invalidate the work of the many fine people who engage in the art.  I love Roger Ebert.  Love his reviews.  But he is particularly hard on the horror genre which is a particular favorite of mine.  I don’t let that diminish my respect for the man. 

The value of considered and well written criticism is in the healthy discourse it encourages.  When that discourse is disrupted by name calling and insults, there is no value to be found.  And when there is no reason to engage in healthy debate for fear of such uncivility, well that’s something I don’t ever want to deal with.

I’m going to end up seeing The Dark Knight Rises by myself.  Of my two best friends, one is completely ambivalent and the other pathologically hateful towards the previous two.  I respect their opinions even though we often find ourselves rehashing the same points in regards to the movies.  That’s OK.  We’re friends.  We can get away with saying things to each other that we never would to a stranger.  I hope you have friends that you can have such discussions with and that if you ever find yourself on a message board itching to respond to something someone posted that you strongly disagree with that you can remember these four simple words:  ‘Don’t be an asshole.’

Anyway, I’ve gotta bounce.  I’m going to watch The Dark Knight to get geared up for my weekend viewing.

[Editor’s Note:  This was written prior to the tragic events in Aurora, Colarado.  Thoughts and sympathy are extended to those affected by this senseless violence]

 

One list to slay them, One list to flay them, One list to kill them all

Jason Voorhees is undoubtedly one of the top movie slashers of all time, sitting comfortably in a triumvirate of terror with his good friends Mike Myers and Frederick Krueger.  The films chronicling the wacky misadventures of the sometimes living, sometimes dead Voorhes, like those of his compatriots in carnage, are a mixed bag to be sure.  But if you like movies where stupid people are dispatched of in increasingly ridiculous and creative ways, well…there’s definitely some gold in them thar hills.

To wit, I present to you my favorite Friday the 13th movies.

5.  Jason Lives:  Friday the 13th Part VI

This was the second of the series that I saw in the theater.  I was 15 so I had to sneak in.  Wasn’t the first time (that was Beverly Hills Cop) and it wouldn’t be the last.  The film wisely chooses to ignore the events of the fifth movie, the conclusion of which sees Tommy Jarvis poised to inherit the mantle of the man he killed in the fourth movie.  Here, Tommy had decided that a dead Jason is simply not enough.  Never mind the fact that the guys been dead like 10 years.  Tommy decides the best time to dig up and burn the body is during a thunderstorm.  Said thunder brings the lightning that strikes the metal rod Tommy has angrily jammed into dead Jason’s cadaverous chest.  Tommy’s misfortune is our gain as said lightning revives Jason, setting him upon an undead murderous rampage that lasts another 5 movies.

4. Friday the 13th (2009)

The reboot/remake that attempted to restart the franchise back in 2009 is a divisive film for Jason faithfuls.  I rather like it if I’m being honest.  It’s got everything you could possibly want in a slasher pic about a dude with a hockey mask.  Creative, bloody kills.  Boobs.  A likable hero and two possible survivor chicks.  It even deftly references the very first film in the franchise.  The movie made a fair enough amount of money and was certainly the best, or at least enjoyable, of the Platinum Dunes ‘remakes’ that come out from time to time.  It was primed for a sequel and there was a lot of talk of it being in development.  But here we are three years later and there hasn’t been a peep about it in a long time.  The only comfort, and it’s a cold one, is that Jason like all good slashers won’t stay dead.  He’ll be back.

3.  Jason X

A three word tagline is all you need to know about this movie:  Jason…..in…..SPAAAAAAAACEEEE!  The film opens with Jason in the present at his old stomping grounds. mysteriously returned from his unfortunate and misguided trip to Hell.  He is quickly taken down by paramilitary forces and put into suspended animation only to be revived on a spaceship in the far future.  With cybernetic parts.  Yeah.  It’s patently ridiculous but adeptly pulled off.  There’s a likable crew of soon to be dead victims serving on the deep space vehicle and there is a brilliant holodeck type sequence that harkens back to the good old days of Camp Crystal Lake.  Great fun is to be had here if one just merely allows it.

2.  Friday the 13th Part VIII:  Jason Takes Manhattan

 I’ll admit that I wasn’t particularly fond of it at the time.  But its place and worth in the series’ history has only grown in the decades since I first saw it.  Jason’s chilling and chained at the bottom of Crystal Lake after being dragged underwater by the spectral father of some psychic chick.  Don’t ask.  That’s Part VII:  The New Blood.  And it’s a mess.  Anyway, there he is just waiting for some party boat filled with late 80’s tragedies to come sailing by pulling up an exposed underwater power line that will spark him back to murderous consciousness.  Good thing that exact thing happens.  Said boat is headed for Manhattan.  There’s a great boxing match and at the end Jason reverts to his childhood form before dissolving in a pool of New York sludge.  It’s the perfect analogy for the American dream.

1.  Friday the 13th:  The Final Chapter

It may be the most inappropriately named movie in the history of cinema, but the perfect storm of Crispin Glover and Corey Feldman help elevate the fourth film in the series to the top of the heap.  Set just a few days after the carnage of the 3D offering, another group of incredibly intelligent young adults throw caution to the wind and rent a cabin on Crystal Lake situated about 20 feet from the fresh, fly ridden corpses Jason recently left behind.  Their cabin is located next to that of the Jarvis family, a mother with her teenage daughter and younger son who evidently don’t get out much or read the newspaper in those days where the internet was just a figment of Al Gore’s imagination.  Feldman plays the boy who is obsessed with horror films.  He’s wicked handy with a machete and a knife as Jason soon discovers after laying waste to all those other poor unfortunate souls.  This would have served as a fine ending to the series.  But I’m glad it didn’t.

Enjoy your Friday the 13ths, dear readers, whenever they might occur.  They, like blonde haired flat-chested murder camp counselors, are few and far between.

I like these shows.  So should you.

Louie (FX – Thursday 9:30 PM Central)

Back in 2006, Louis C.K. had an HBO comedy, Lucky Louie, that lasted 13 episodes.  It was in the traditional three camera sitcom format filmed in front of a live studio audience and it had a laugh track.  I’ve never seen it and I imagine Louis is okay with that.  It was a troubled production as Louis had a contentious relationship with the network.  I doubt he was terribly upset when it was cancelled.

A few years later he landed a new show on FX in which he had complete creative control.  And it’s one of the best shows on the air.  If you’re a fan of the comedian’s stand-up, you’ll already be inclined to like it.  Like Seinfeld, it mixes Louis’ bits in front of an audience with story.  Unlike the famed precursor, the situations tend to be less ridiculous and more dripping in brutal awkwardness and honesty.   It’s sometimes painful to watch but never less than entertaining.

The first two seasons are available on Netflix Instant and on DVD/Blu-ray.  The third season is currently running.

Longmire (A&E Sunday 9:00 PM Central)

Based on a series of novels by Robert Johnson, this is a young procedural that is steadily growing more comfortable with itself as it gets more episodes in the can.  Aussie actor Robert Taylor plays the titular lawman Walt Longmire, a Wyoming sherif trying to keep order in a county that is disturbingly becoming more volatile.  The weekly mysteries, usually centered around some unfortunate’s death, are typical of the genre but engaging enough to maintain your interest. 

I personally hope the show stretches its legs a bit and has the confidence to get away from the murder-of-the-week format from time to time.  There’s a lot of a great character actors in the show that they can do a lot with.  Taylor brings a world-weary stoicism to the recently widowed sherif.  There are some dark things in his past that have been alluded to in some vague flashbacks.  Lou Diamond Phillips plays a bar owner and Longmire’s best friend, an indian off the local reservation where the cops have a less than amicable relationship with the county authorities.  Katee Sackhoff of Battlestar Galactica fame plays Vic, a brassy deputy who brings her experience policing the mean streets of Philadelphia to the American west.  Her working relationship and friendship with Walt has been a highlight of the first few episodes.  Bailey Chase plays Branch Connaly, another deputy who feels that Walt’s getting a bit long in the tooth and has decided to run against him in the next election.  And oh yeah, Walt doesn’t know it yet but Branch is totally sleeping with Cady, a local attorney who happens to be Walt’s daughter.

The show is gorgeous to look at.  It’s filmed in New Mexico which serves as a worthy substitute for Wyoming.  And, as long as the show doesn’t forget to focus on all these fun characters, I’ll be watching.  Five episodes of the 10 episode first season have aired and can probably be caught on-demand from your local cable provider.  A&E has already ordered a second season.

Big Brother 14 (CBS  Sunday & Wednesday 7:00 PM, Thursday 8:00 PM)

I know, I know.  Believe me, I know.  Every year I tell myself I’m not going to watch this glorious train wreck of the very worst of human behavior.  And yet, I always do.  Can’t help myself.  The show began the same year as it’s far more famous and watched network sibling Survivor and has been struggling for respect ever since.  More than a decade later it’s still trying and still failing.  The premise is simple enough.  A bunch of wanna be movie stars (models, bartenders, fitness trainers, etc) get thrown together with some geeks and some random old people.  The producers stage challenges in which contestants can gain the power to nominate people for eviction.  Campaigning begins, alliances form, people lie to each other all within the confines of a tricked out house with no forms of communication to the outside world. 70 or so days later one victor emerges and I feel dirty for the next 10 months.  It all plays out in as close to real time as a show can get and it’s ridiculously addictive.

The new season begins on Thursday, July 12.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Mini-reviews to help you choose

I realized recently that I had been neglecting my movie reviews. I’ve seen a fair amount of stuff at the theater in the last 3 months, some of which I’ve addressed in other ways on the blog. Most of them have shuffled off to make way for other films or have been out so long it would feel odd writing a little blurb for them. So, suffice it to say I saw The Hunger Games, The Avengers, Piranha 3DD, Prometheus, Brave, and Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. They played to various effect and while none were terrible I doubt any will end up on my year-end top 10.

Today, I am going to address a handful of movies that I’ve seen through another platform. VOD (Video-on-Demand) has become a common and viable option for studios looking to release smaller films that would otherwise get lost in the blockbuster and 3D choked multiplexes. These are the types of movies that might play for a couple weeks at an “art house” theater assuming your town is lucky enough to have one.

Magnolia Pictures and it’s genre imprint Magnet have an interesting release structure. The majority of their films hit VOD and stay there throughout the run of the picture. After a month or so of being available exclusively on demand the film will have a short theatrical run (most likely to qualify for Oscar consideration) before being released on DVD and/or Blu-ray a couple months after that.

Some of these fine films actually get a one-night ‘sneak preview’ on HDNet the day before they’re released theatrically, which is where I try to catch them. So, here’s a few flicks you may not have heard of that are worth checking out. And a couple more you could probably skip.

All films are rated on a five-star scale.

Meeting Evil

*

Luke Wilson and Sam Jackson star in this underdone watered down ‘thriller’. There’s literally nothing about this movie that makes it worthy of my recommendation. The only thing I even kind of liked is that they teased the ‘it’s all in their head’ plot device that I so loathe but then went in another entirely different, yet predictable and clichéd, direction. Seriously. Don’t waste your time. However, if you feel compelled to ignore my sound advice it will be hitting video on July 24 and is still available on VOD.

Apartment 143

** 1/2

An English language, Spanish production, this ‘found footage’ film’s mileage will vary depending on how much you enjoy that particular style of movie. The cast is mainly unknowns. The plot is fairly standard. A concerned widowed father contacts a team of parapsychologists and tasks them with investigating the strange goings-on that have followed him and his family across multiple homes since the death of his wife. Some are convinced it’s a haunting while others suspect there are other forces at work. The film offers up some pretty striking visuals. At the end, you’re given a reasonable, if convoluted, explanation that is completely invalidated by one of the most gratuitous and worthless last scene jump scares I’ve even seen in a movie. Frustrating but if you like the Paranormal Activity series, you might want to give it a shot. It’s still available on VOD and hits stores on August 28.

The Hunter

***

Willem Dafoe is, in my humble opinion, one of the top 5 working actors today. He tends to elevate the material and, in this film, is no different. Here he plays Martin, a mercenary hired by a bio-tech company to travel to Australia and secure a Tasmanian tiger, a creature long thought extinct but the subject of rumored sightings in recent years. The company wants the animal’s blood and sets Martin up with lodging in the spare room of a woman whose husband has gone missing. There is intrigue here as Martin doubts his mission and the true intentions of his employers. There is mystery as to whether the woman’s husband went missing because of a run in with local loggers or because of some connection to Martin’s assignment. And there is romance as Martin finds himself drawn to his lonely host and her adorable children. I honestly thought before seeing this that I was going to get some kind of creature feature but was pleasantly surprised to find instead a character driven story with a sad and inevitable conclusion. The movie will reach stores on July 3.

Goon

*** 1/2

It’s not Slap Shot, but it doesn’t strive to be. This hockey comedy is its own little beast and it is powered by an utterly charming performance by Seann William Scott of American Pie Stifler fame. He plays a brutish but loveable bouncer handpicked by a semi-pro hockey coach for his fighting ability. He can’t skate and he sure as hell can’t play hockey very well but he knows how to throw a punch and lay a fool out. Initially hated by his teammates, his earnestness eventually wins them over as they help to make him a better player. He falls in love, meets his hockey hero, and helps to build his team into contenders. There are great supporting performances throughout highlighted by Liev Schreiber as Scott’s veteran hero, the most notorious thug in the league who is not quite ready to pass on the title. The film is available right now on DVD and Blu-ray.

God Bless America

*** 1/2

Bobcat Goldthwaite is quite a remarkable filmmaker. In his fourth feature, he directs Joel Murray (Bill’s brother), a man who loses his job on the same day he finds out he has terminal cancer. Sitting on his bed late that night, he is determined to end his life. But before he pulls the trigger, he sees a TMZ-style ‘news’ show showing the worst of America. He figures that if he’s going to go out, he might as well take some people with him. The movie is a scathing indictment of the current state of celebrity in our country. The character (obviously serving as Mr. Goldthwaite’s proxy) feels that we are too eager to reward and celebrate those who do the very worst of things, those who provide the very worst of examples. No one is safe from the dying man’s vengeful killing spree. Religious zealots spewing hate and bigotry, spoiled reality show teenagers, and insulting and demeaning singing competition judges are all suitable targets for Murray’s rage and frustration. The movie does become a bit repetitive at points but Goldthwaite, to his credit, never strays from his message. Highly recommended. The movie will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on July 3 and is still available on demand.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I’ll try to stay more on top of the reviews. If you’ve seen any of the above films, I welcome your comments. And if you get a chance to check them out, come back here and tell me what you thought!