Monday, January 31, 2011

Review: Mirrors 2 (2010)

Director: A lobotomized ape
Starring: Christy Carlson Romano's Boobs
Website: Do you really care?

This review is Not Safe For Work. Just warning you.

This has been…a test of my mortal strength. In my last review, of the first movie in the hopefully short-lived Mirrors franchise, I said that I would review these movies with a level head, and not get pissed off at them if I could help it. That was easy enough with the first movie, as it was only marginally offensive, but this one is just…ugh, it’s just horrendous! But I made a promise, and I’m going to fucking keep it. I won’t lose my temper at this movie either if it kills me! Folks, let’s dive into Mirrors 2.

First of all, take a look at the cast of this movie. In one corner, you’ve got Nick Stahl, otherwise known as John Connor from Terminator 3. In the other, you’ve got Christy Carlson Romano, who played Kim Possible as well as the sister from Even Stevens. So you’ve got a future apocalyptic resistance leader and a girl who hangs out with a naked mole rat in a horror movie about demonic mirrors. That’s the kind of weirdness we’re dealing with here, people.

And next, well…check out the opening of the film. It starts off with an extremely brief opening sequence in which an overdubbed narrator tells us that he made a mistake. We only see brief flashes, but we can assume that our protagonist, named Max, apparently crashed his car and killed his girlfriend by accident. So, what, is this a big PSA now? We fast forward to a year later, where an annoying night security guard at a department store who is NOT played by Kiefer Sutherland flexing his pecs and making dumb jokes into a mirror, because…you have to have pretty room-temperature intelligence to work this job, I guess. Things go awry, though, when his reflection decides he isn’t funny and forces him to eat glass. A bit harsh, but…on the other hand, does anyone else think this is a more gory version of a Looney Tunes trick? I could totally see Bugs Bunny, if he invoked the Devil or something, doing this to Elmer Fudd.

This is actually making a statement on modern orthodontist work. Look closely and you will see it.

Meanwhile our venerable Max, played by Nick Stahl from Terminator 3, is alive but tormented by grief and guilt. His father, who owns the department store from the first movie, which is now rebuilt in New Orleans, decides that he has the solution to this. What is his answer? “Hey, son! Come work for me as a night security guard! That will cure all of your problems!” Yeah, more like, “Hey, son, come work for me so I can pay you less than I would pay someone not related to me!” Family members always get you on the guilt trips.

He gets shown around the store, which doesn’t really have much to show, and introduced to the various people who are going to work there – among them Christy Romano from Kim Possible, playing a businesswoman or something; I don’t know, her character is only in the movie because she has boobs and was willing to get naked in a later scene. Meanwhile, his father continues to look like a metrosexual Jeff Bridges. The world is a weird place…but let’s just try and get this finished before I go catatonic.

Later that night we see Christy Romano doing what most hot horror movie girls like to do best, taking a shower. She looks at herself in the mirror and then takes off her clothes and gives us several full shots of her breasts, ass and pretty much the rest of her body in full. Not that I mind seeing it, but…can you think of a more pointless reason for a character to be in a film? Ever? “Ms. Romano, you’ve been selected to be in this film to appear for about 5 minutes, take your clothes off and then die.” ACTING ROLE OF THE CENTURY!

This exhibit is known in some circles as softcore porn, but in others as the only reason why Mirrors 2 was made.

While that’s going on, Max sees a vision of her in a mirror pulling off her own head. In the bathroom again, the cameraman makes sure to shoot as much of her more tender areas as he can as she trips on the floor, falls through the glass shower pane, breaks it, and then ends up on the floor as it decapitates her quite bloodily. And then Louis will get blamed for it.


Then Max goes to see his doctor the next day to talk about the visions he’s been seeing in the mirrors. His doctor tells him that the visions he saw are probably representations of his girlfriend who died in that car crash, and that – get this – it means he’s getting over it finally. Uh, no, I’m pretty sure people who see things that aren’t really there need MORE help, and are not anywhere close to actually getting over their trauma. How backwards is this doctor? Did she get her license Hunter Thompson style from some weirdo on the street? I seriously can’t fathom this. I mean, it’s completely backwards logic – seeing people decapitating themselves in mirrors means you’re on the way to recovery? This is stupid! Who wrote this? Who…okay, okay, simmering down now.

So next he finds out about Romano’s death and is freaked out about it. These two dumbass detectives are on the case. And then the next thing he knows, Max sees a reflection of one of the other guys from the building with his guts ripped out, and since it’s just so suspenseful as to what is about to happen next, we see the same guy in his apartment when his mirror starts torturing him. He gets killed too late for Max to arrive or for the police to save him, but the two detectives do interrogate Max for several minutes with no edits and no interesting dialogue to make it bearable. This movie is REALLY pushing my limits, let me tell you!

Woah, dude. This movie like, totally sucks.

After that Max is roaming the department store at night again, shouting at the mirrors like Sutherland did in the first film, but not shooting at them with a gun like Sutherland did. I’ll let you decide if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. The ghost in the store for SOME REASON decides to use a beam of moonlight to show him a missing persons’ poster outside that we can assume is the ghost herself. Max finds her sister outside somehow the next day and starts off his conversation by telling her that her sister is in the mirrors. As expected, she thinks he’s crazier than all the mental patients in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest combined. Really, what did he expect, just telling her that her sister is actually in some mirrors at a department store? Acceptance with open arms?

Whatever he expected, it turns out that the girl, named Elizabeth, is pretty open minded after all, because after a few shitty transitions and rejected amateur photographs of the director’s neighborhood that I guess are supposed to signify that they’ve been walking for a while, she believes him wholeheartedly! Yup, he just tells her his life story and for SOME REASON (which I suspect to be a huge lapse of sanity and/or a huge drug binge on the writers’ parts), she just believes him all the sudden. And then we enter into what I like to call “How NOT to have conversations between characters in a cinematic production.” Max says something, Elizabeth responds, then stoic, stony silence. Rinse, repeat and then blow your brains out. It’s like the editor just died before he could get to these scenes; they literally just stand there with this really awkward silence for seconds at a time where there SHOULD be dialogue! Did they just forget their lines? GET BETTER ACTORS.

Then they go to see that guy from the beginning who was forced to eat the glass, who survived and now looks like the bastard child of Freddy Krueger and the Thing from the Fantastic Four. Oh, and his voice sounds like Gollum on helium. I’m just going to go ahead and skip this scene. They spend way too long here trying to pad out the movie like a bunch of ass monkeys, so I’m just going to tell you in one sentence what they take at least 5 wasteful minutes to do: He tells them that this one other guy from the department store is the one behind the whole thing, erasing security tapes and the whole nine yards. THERE. WASN’T THAT EASY?

It’s revealed that apparently the whole time, Christy Romano and that other douche drugged her water at some bar as some form of initiation (…to working at a department store? Huh?) and then she was date raped and strangled by the third guy who they just found out was setting things up. Wow. What a letdown. You go through this whole movie, full of decapitations and disemboweling, expecting something big, and what do you get? A fucking cop-out story about a rape and murder covered up by people who have shit to lose, just like The Grudge and Stir of Echoes and every other god damn movie ever made about ghosts. Why don’t you just kill yourself, movie? Why don’t you just go ahead and do it?

So yeah, then in a true rip-off of Stir of Echoes and probably a billion other ghost stories, they go digging in the store and find the sister’s body in some secret compartment or whatever; fuck it, I don’t know. Just end this goddamn movie already. But no, we still have a long, drawn out and retarded action scene involving the guy kidnapping Elizabeth but seeing her sister’s reflection in the mirrors when he tries to hold her hostage. They struggle a bit, throw some punches, push each other around and then the guy gets shoved into a mirror like those Mario levels where you jump through a painting to get there.

This movie would have been better to include things like this, I think.

So…wait. Let’s recap that. This whole movie has been about this one dead girl getting her revenge on the people whose fault it was. Okay. I got that. And it turns out she did kill all of the people who did it to her. Good for her; she should get a medal. But I ask you this, readers. Where in this equation is there ANY ROOM AT ALL for Nick Stahl’s character? What point was there in even HAVING him in this movie? He didn’t do anything. He didn’t save anyone. Why the hell was he here? It makes no sense! No sense at all! This movie has driven me MAD I tell you!

This movie is the bottom of the barrel, people. There’s nothing redeemable about this at all. It’s just a complete void of wretched, rancid crap. It’s got no substance, no scares, the acting is shit, the directing is shit…it’s just SHIT. And I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Hey, didn’t he say he wouldn’t get angry at this movie?” Yes. Yes I did, but you know what? I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I am in control of my life, and I certainly am not about to let shitty-ass movies like this one rule my emotions. Fuck this movie! Fuck it to its core.

None of these images are mine. I take no credit for any of them.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Wizard of Oz (1925)

For a variety of reasons, this review relied heavily on my memory as well as sources I found online. Therefore, some (mostly, if not all, minor) details regarding the plot of the film may not be entirely accurate. But then again, you probably are not going to see this anyway, so it should not matter that much; I just thought you all should be aware of this in case you do. By the way, this is another "summery" review (though I have once agin skimmed over certain parts to reduce the length), so there will be spoilers. That being said, let's get right into:

Starring: Larry Semon, Oliver Hardy, Dorothy Dawn
Director: Larry Semon

Ok, in case you can't tell by the information listed above, this isn't "The Wizard of Oz". We all know and love the 1939 Judy Garland version, but most people are probably unaware that there were earlier adaptations of L. Frank Baun's classic book. So I was surprised to come across this 1925 silent film (produced by Baun's son) that depicts the story. Having viewed it, I can say that...well...let's just say that it is a little different...

The story starts off with a little girl asking her grandfather, a toy-maker played by director Larry Semon, to read to her "The Wizard of Oz". It then shows the Land of Oz, where some guy named Prime Minister Kruel (Josef Swickard) is in charge. And guess what, he's evil! Wouldn't have know that from a guy with that name! Though to be fair it's a little difficult to take someone that seriously as a dictator when he looks like Mozart:

I would like to make an "Amdeus" reference right now, but I haven't seen the movie yet, so I guess I will have to pass.

Anyway, he has his minions, including his right-hand man Ambassador Wikked (Otto Lederer) and the Wizard himself (Charles Murray), who looks like a mixture between a proper English gentleman and a Muppet:


The people of Oz, as represented by Prince Kynd (Bryant Washburn), are not very happy with their leader and they demand the return of their princess. Not really sure why the Prince can't just rally up the people and take over by himself, but believe me there are far more obnoxious plot holes than this to get riled up about. On a side note, there is one scene where a woman is dancing and one person mentions that (I'm paraphrasing a little here) "she is a lot of applesauce!". Really, because I thought she looked more like a cranberry kind of girl.

We then skip to a scene that is a little more familiar: Dorothy (Dorothy Dawn) living with her aunt (Mary Carr) and uncle (Frank Alexander) in Kansas. However, it soon starts to show some differences from the 1939 version. First of all, Uncle Henry is an asshole. The first scene he is in, he goes over to his wife, destroys the flowers Dorothy had just given her, and then yells at Dorothy for doing it. Ummm...why? I don't think it's a really a big deal, Henry, just take a chill pill. But no, he proceeds to get angry at the other farmers.

First, he goes over to Snowball, a black man, who is seen eating from the watermelon patch.........................yeahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, this is not like today where the most people can get away with in terms of racial insensitivity in a mainstream movie is any annoying alien named Jar Jar and two equally annoying Transformers robots. Back then, people didn't worry about that; they were just explicitly racist! Isn't that wonderful! Oh, by the way, the actor who plays him is Spencer Bell, but in the film he is credited as G. Howe Black. I am dead serious! Anyway, as Uncle Henry continues to have a hissy fit, we come across our other main characters, one played by Semon (I kind of surprised he wasn't the one to change his name), and another played by Oliver Hardy before he gained fame as the bigger half of the famous "Laurel and Hardy" duo. They both love Dorothy, and they proceed to fight over her. And by fight over her, I mean Semon runs away from Hardy (I forgot their character's names, if they were given any) and the other people on the farm for about 10 minutes, using slapstick and bad special effects that looks like what would be featured in a "Home Alone" rip-off today.

Soon there after, Wikked and his minions come over by plane, because I guess Oz can be reached through the use of a 1920s airplane (I will get back to this point later). They demand possession of a letter from Dorothy's past. It turns out that Dorothy was found on the doorstep of her aunt and uncle's house with a note that stated that when the girl turned 18, she should read a note meant specifically for her. Wikked threatens to kill Dorothy by tying her up from a silo, sending everyone around to look for the letter. When it is found, a fight breaks out between Seron and Hardy, which of course means more slapstick! At one point, Sermon falls from the top of the silo, lands on the ground head first, and yet is completely unharmed. So why is everyone so concerned about Dorothy falling off? Did women's bones break easier than men's in this era?

Eventually a tornado forms, forcing everyone to seek shelter in a shed, except Aunt Em, who disappears and is never seen or mentioned in the film again. Sucks. Meanwhile, Snowball (gee, maybe that name is supposed to be ironic...or maybe it's because he's Irish) walks outside for some reason where he is hit by lighting bolts repeatedly and they bounce off his head. You know, because black people are so stupid and thick headed! Hahaha, oh racism...This eventually leads to the most visually striking and yet bizarre part of the film. The lighting comes down, pushes Snowball up in the air where he continues to run across the sky with the lighting on his trail until he eventually ends up in the house which is still flying away. This would be the point where I would accuse the filmmakers of using LSD, except LSD hasn't even been invented at the time this was made. So what's their excuse?!

Anyway, the house goes over a ledge and crashes. As you can imagine, no one is hurt. And where do they end up, you may ask? Russia. Ok, fine its Oz, but the way the palaces are set up it looks a lot like Moscow. Well, one thing is for sure, I don't think they are in Kanas, I'm not quoting the Judy Garland version, because I am not 100% sure that they left Kansas; they really didn't travel that far! If they did leave the state (yeah, when I think of Kansas, I think of ledges) they certainly didn't go far enough to leave the country, so even the Russia thing isn't an excuse! Oz is supposed to be a magical place in the realm of imagination, not some random kingdom located in Middle America! WHAT THE HELL?!

Well, after that tiny plot hole, Dorothy reads her letter, which declares that she is a princess and rightfully heir to the throne of Oz (even though this would be considered illegal under Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution which states...ok fine, I'll drop it) and her uncle is taken along and given a title as the Prince of Whales (because he is fat; that's right, we are making fun of fat people now). The others, however, are placed under arrest (ummm...why?...and why doesn't Dorothy help them?), and the Wizard is ordered to turn them into monkeys. However, unknown to the rest of the kingdom, he is not an actual wizard, so he cooperates with the would-be prisoners, warning that if they don't do something "We're all in Dutch!" (????????). Seron and Hardy then try to disguise themselves as a Scarecrow and a Tin Man. Ha, Oliver Hardy as the Tin Man, that's kind of a joke isn't it? But wait, it's that time again...SLAPSTICK! After a few minutes of that, they are arrested, and while Hardy is let loose because he accuses his workers of kidnapping, Semon and Snowball are thrown in a dungeon. While they are there, they are confronted by prisoners and lions. Semon tries to trick them by disguising Snowball as a lion. Semon is a first afraid of the real lions, but then decides that he is safe because these lions only like "dark meat". Wow, that was both corny and racist at the same time, good job.

Eventually, they escape, with Semon breaking into the palace and Snowball getting out a different way, doing a bunch of summersaults in the air (not quite as strange as it sounds, but still...). Uncle gets trapped down in the dungeon, because of the door in the floor being opened. Well, that along with bad editing and since he just kind of randomly decided to fall backwards for no reason at all. Kruel is defeated in a sword fight by Kynd with the help of Semon, and after Kruel admits to being the one who hid Dorothy (oh right, almost forgot about her didn't you?) as a baby, he and his forces are arrested. Wait, I just realized something. If she was such a threat to his rule why wouldn't her just kill her as an infant?, I'm done, let's just rap this up. Seron then discovers that Dorothy is in love with Kynd, meaning all his wooing was for not. Sucks to be you (though Sermon and Dawn were married in real life, so I guess he was just poking fun at himself).

Anyway, it appears he is not the only one upset, because Hardy and a bunch of soldiers once again are going after him. That's right, got to fit one last bit of slapstick in there before you go, don't you? Snowball launches a plane and Semon grabs onto the ladder attached to it to escape. However, the latter breaks, he falls from the sky, and............…it all the sudden comes away from the story again, with the doll of the Scarecrow falling down. The toy-maker had fallen asleep, but the noise wakes him up, he tells his granddaughter to go to bed. He then opens up the story one last time to say that Dorothy and Kynd lived happily ever after.

Really....that's how you are going to end it?! "Oh, the rejected Sermon falls to his death (maybe), every other character kind of just fades away, but that's ok, because Dorothy and Kynd, both of whom we spent very little time discussing, especially in the last third of the movie, lived happily ever after!" SEE?! EVERTHING WORKED OUT! Wikipedia says that there is some stuff that is implied which would make for a more climatic ending, but that would assume that the film is in someway cleaver, and I am not yet willing to accept that!

This movie is...weird. That's kind of a strange thing to say about a story originally about munchkins, witches, talking scarecrows and lions, and men made of tin. But if they were going to go in a different direction from the book, this was not the right way. The characters are one dimensional, the paper-thin plot is filled with endless and unfunny slapstick, and bunch of the stuff that they include makes no sense. Did I mention it is racist?

Ok, to be fair, all of my observations are taken from a modern-day perspective, so much of what I made fun of here is a victim of being outdated, which includes both technically and creative aspects. I don't think that this film was supposed to be taken that seriously even when it first came out; it was just a dumb little movie about dumb people doing dumb things. That being said, it does show its age and there are other kinds of films, both from the silent era and today, that are more enjoyable to watch for your viewing pleasure. So, if you want to check it out for curiosity's sake, go ahead. As a source of pure entertainment, however, I do not recommend it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Mirrors (2008)

Over the last 6 or 7 months, I’ve done a lot of these reviews. You know, the kind where I point out why these bad movies are bad, ignoring the fact that I could probably be doing a million better things. So for this one, I’m not going to get angry at the film. It’s not worth my time or energy. I’m going to review this film, but I’m definitely not going to let out my rage on it. It’s unhealthy, and would only lead to more anger at other things in my life. In fact, if I get angry at all at this film, you have every right to call me out on it and strip me of my right to review anything else, because God knows the gimmick’s getting old. Real old. So. With that said, what is the movie I’m looking at today, anyway?

Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Paula Patton

Oh, snap.

Well, this is Mirrors, everybody. This movie was directed by Alexandre Aja, who once directed such brutal, gory films as High Tension, but has of late become associated with slop like P2 and this movie, which I have to admit is noticeably worse. I mean, how sad is that? To go from such a violent, intense and even downright horrific film to a half-assed, dime-a-dozen supernatural thriller like this one is just pathetic beyond belief. But it’s real, and unfortunately we’re going to take a look at it today.

The movie begins with a guy running away from the producers of the movie, I assume, screaming for them not to kill him. I guess he must have tried to leave without their permission. Geez, film productions are getting really hardcore these days! Anyway, something funny happens with the mirror he runs into that causes the guy to slit his own throat with a broken piece of the mirror. They should have gotten better insurance on those things.

Then we’re introduced to our one-dimensional caricature of a main character, played unconvincingly by Kiefer Sutherland. Who could probably be doing way better things with his time, like making more 24 episodes. Apparently he’s playing an ex-cop with alcohol issues who got kicked out of his own house by his wife. Give a round of applause for the guy with the most pathetic life, guys! And now he’s working as a night security guard at a burnt down department store? Check off another on the List of Ways to Tell Your Life Sucks.

The mirror don't lie.

So he gets walked through the whole place with this old guy telling him everything that the producers couldn’t fit on the back of the DVD box. Department store burnt down, tons of people died, everyone’s 20% off coupons are no longer valid there, yadda yadda yadda. Skip it. Sutherland stops by his wife’s place and they get into a fight, followed by a spontaneous make out session up against the closed door. Yeah. Because when you come to visit your wife who kicked you out of the house because you drank too much and possibly beat and/or abused her in some way, she ALWAYS makes out with you like it’s a crappy late-night sitcom.

Also, check out the acting range on Sutherland! He goes from a boring, standard Clint Eastwood impersonation that is common for main characters in these movies (without any of the charisma Eastwood had) to a dull shouting attempt at sounding ANGRY!!! Did I put enough exclamation points on there to emphasize all the ANGER he puts into his mindless screaming? No, seriously; those are his only two emotions throughout the entire film. I’m dead serious.

So Sutherland starts to patrol the, uh, vacated department store, and he sees some pretty freaky shit. Why are there dead, burning people in the mirrors but not there in real life? Why did Sutherland suddenly freak out and feel like he was covered in fire? Well, any normal, logical solution would suggest that he’s probably doing crack on the side, too. It makes sense with his character anyway. But we have a shoddily made and poorly written supernatural horror movie plot to shit out here! So instead it’s suggested that – get this – there’s something in the mirrors that is making people kill themselves when they look into them! He even finds that guy’s ID from the beginning of the movie conveniently lying on the floor where he’s patrolling.

"Hmm...if I look closely enough at this mirror, I can see my credibility vanishing quicker and quicker..."

This leads to some GREAT DETECTIVE WORK as he bravely marches into his wife’s workplace (she’s very conveniently a practicing doctor at a big hospital) and demands that she let him see the dead body of the guy from the movie’s intro, with the added threat of making her watch him try to act some more if she doesn’t. Fearing this horrible fate, she quickly opens up the freezer and lets Sutherland see the body, which comes to life in the metal reflection and scares him. He spazzes out and doesn’t really find out much new aside from a name, Esseker.

Oh, and would you BELIEVE me if I told you that his wife thinks he’s crazy? No? Okay. I don’t even have to say it then.

Sutherland proceeds to continue working at the broken down old store even though any sane person would have quit somewhere in between the first demented crack-dream and the second one. Meanwhile, he sees more nightmareish hallucinations at his sister’s apartment where he’s staying right now that look kind of like something Tim Burton would come up with when he’s pissed off at the world. When his sister shows some concern about his well being, he responds by screaming loudly at her. Because…that’s all he’s got.


His sister is fleshed out herself, though, as we see that she does, in fact, have boobs. You know, because they just have to show a nude/bathing scene of even the most under-developed characters before they kill them off. Speaking of killing them off, let’s take a spin on the Kill-O-Meter and see what it turns up. Hmm…what random, gruesome way can we kill this character even though not having her die really wouldn’t have much effect on the plot? How about having her rip her own jaw clean out of her face? That’ll do it! What a wonderfully pointless death.

I don't think your makeover is working out too well for you, honey.

I mean, I guess it’s a cool, gruesome horror movie death, but there’s no other death in the movie like it, so it just feels out of place. I am watching the uncut version though…which means that they did it just to get people incentive to buy the uncut version instead of the theater version. Still one of the better parts of the film, I guess. See, I can say nice things about these movies!

After that Sutherland is thrown into depression over his sister’s death, and becomes more convinced than ever that it was the mirrors behind it the whole time. Somehow he also finds out that shooting one of them does nothing, as the mirror kind of regenerates itself and shows no signs of damage. That’s…so stupid I don’t even know where to begin. How can you possibly be serious with that, movie? What, do the mirrors have built in combat reflexes? Are they made for military use? It’s just so ludicrous. But I’m not getting mad. I’m cool. Just downright chilled, friends.

Realizing that they can attack anyone, anywhere, Sutherland goes to his wife’s house and starts painting over all the mirrors. His wife comes home, calls him crazy, and he tries to show her that he’s right by shooting at the mirror with the gun in his pocket. Of course, it doesn’t work, so she just calls him crazy some more and he goes on his way. He finds out some important information about the backstory behind this whole thing – there’s a lot of shit about this twelve year old mental patient who was actually possessed by demons, but given treatment for schizophrenia involving a room full of mirrors. Which somehow made the mirrors possessed? And there was a fire, people died, but the little girl actually did not die, despite her medical record saying she did…it’s a huge mess, and even writing it all out is confusing the fuck out of me. It’s convoluted as hell. How does this add up to mirrors killing your family if you don’t bring them what they want, again? I think I lost track somewhere.

Oh, I forgot. The mental institution, after it burnt down, was turned into the department store that Sutherland currently works at! I do love those department stores that used to be mental institutions…there’s just something charming about them!

So the mother won’t believe any of Sutherland’s crazy rambling until one morning when she sees her son’s reflection not doing the same thing he is actually doing. Then all the sudden, bam! She believes every word of it. They paint over all the mirrors and close the blinds in the whole house, and then Sutherland goes off on a detective hunt to find Esseker, who he eventually finds living as a nun in a church. She’s such a good, pious Christian that she doesn’t help Sutherland at all even though he begs her and tells her his whole family is going to die otherwise.

Wait. Something doesn’t seem quite right there.

Meanwhile Sutherland’s family is running away from their own reflections in the house. Wow. That did sound retarded. I feel less intelligent even writing it.

AHH! Our reflections are TERRIFYING! God; worst horror movie plot since Darkness Falls.

And while THAT’S going on, Sutherland just says, fuck it, and points a gun at Esseker’s head, forcing her to come with him. I hope he plans to come back and do a confessional about this! They go back to the burnt down mental hospital-slash-department store and she tells him what to do. I have to admit that the special effects that follow are pretty good, as they show the mirrors in the building exploding and crumbling down to the floor in a pretty decent display. The family is safe, Sutherland won, and it’s over. Right. RIGHT?

No, we still have a big monster that comes out of nowhere for Sutherland to fight. This part makes me laugh because it’s just so telling of what this movie really is. They spend all this time building up suspense and making the film one of those slow-burners that takes a while to really kick up the scares, but then at the end they just throw in a big, ugly monster, as subtle as a dump truck driving through your window. It’s flat out ridiculous and getting angry at this would be a waste of my time.

So he kills the monster, but then realizes he’s inside the mirror somehow. What? Huh? Why? I don’t know. This movie sucks!

I mean this is just unbelievably lame. It’s lame on levels you didn’t even know existed beforehand. The writing is painful; the story is a mix of stupid, dull and confusing, and Kiefer Sutherland…just, really? Really, this is the performance you’re giving us? I’ve seen cardboard cutouts give less wooden performances! Shame on you for even directing this at all, Mr. Aja! Shame on you!

Okay, okay, sorry. Almost let my anger get the best of me there. But I think I’ve come out mostly unscathed. I might be on the path to a better, more fulfilling review career here. In fact, I think I can handle another movie just like I did here. I bet you anything I can get through another horrible movie without losing my temper at it. So, what’s next on my list, anyway?


None of these pictures are mine. They were all taken by other people and I take no credit for any of them.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Review: Black Swan (2010)

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis

"I just want to be perfect."

Darren Aronofsky is a puzzling director, but he has gotten better since the rather overwhelming – to the point of being a burden to even watch – Requiem for a Dream. The Fountain was artful, if not a little lacking in substance, but where he really got good was The Wrestler. That was just a great movie. And continuing this brilliance is his new film, Black Swan. Let’s get started, then!

This is a really great movie without any kind of restraint as it hurtles through boundaries like a blazing hellcat. Aronofsky’s directing is spastic and harsh. The lighting is very cold, unsettling in its mass of clinical whites and dark, dank shadows. And so the atmosphere is set.

Black Swan is a film about passion and obsession. Natalie Portman's character is driven by a maniacal lust to become a dancer, and the things she goes through - all this physical and sexual madness - is just insane, and yet she perseveres. She really puts on a masterful, captivating performance and makes you believe that she really is this character, Nina Sayers.

And let’s talk about Nina for a second. She really is a great character, with enough depth and texture to her that you really feel like she’s an actual person. Nina is beautiful but insecure and somewhat childish. She lives with her mother in a small apartment in a crowded city and really, really wants that big role in the ballet production coming up. She thinks that it will define her, like she can’t exist and be happy with her existence without this one, prideful achievement. Her mother is domineering and strict and most likely had something to do with her fragility and insecurity.

This is a movie about a lot of things, among them art, work and all kinds of sexuality. It merges the real life trials of doing demanding work like ballet dancing with shocking, often grotesque psychological horror that is subtle and fleeting and yet horrific at the same time. Nina experiences cuts that appear out of nowhere on her back, arms and hands. There are several jarring, nightmareish scenes throughout the film that accentuate and pepper Nina’s gradual mental decline.

She gets involved with another dancer named Lily (Mila Kunis), who she sees as a threat to her and her role in the performance. Even though she doesn’t have much of a reason to, Nina slowly grows more and more certain that Lily is trying to kill her and take the role for herself. There is the infamous lesbian scene between the two of them. It really drives home the amount of sexual tension there is in this film. The lesbian scene is not even really sexy, or arousing at all. It’s really more creepy and unsettling than anything. Female nudity can only do so much in the face of this film’s dark, crawling sense of fear and shadowy atmospherics. The film does an outstanding job creating paranoia inside the viewer, and the result at the end is a unique blend of sensuality and fear, two opposing forces colliding and interweaving into the movie’s madness. It is one of the film’s strongest points.

One scene that sums up the theme of the movie is when Nina goes to visit a broken ex-dancer in the hospital, because it just points out the viciousness and immediacy of the profession she’s chosen. There are no demons here, no spooks around the corner or ghosts in the belfry – just the cold, hard fact of her job. People come, people go, so you have to get that special part, make your mark on the scene and seize the day while it’s still yours, because tomorrow it could belong to someone else. It’s a dangerous edge to teeter on, and as people are emotionally driven and irrational, they may not be able to deal with it. The mind is fragile, easily breakable, easily given in to pressure.

This fragility and fleetingness is really the core of Black Swan. The climax of the film involves a stunning, breathtakingly good ballet performance from Nina and a subsequent collapse in blood. She works herself to the bone. Death for her art. The utmost devotion to it. Beautiful, haunting, demented and unforgettable, Black Swan is a dark trip from a director on his way up. One of the year’s finest.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Review: Jonah Hex (2010)

Director: Jimmy Hayward
Starring: Josh Brolin, Megan Fox, John Malkovich

"Christ, woman, how many men you seeing today?"
-Jonah Hex talking about Megan Fox

You know what we don’t have enough of yet? Comic book movies. Yeah, ain’t tired of those yet, are you America?


Well, then, here’s an 80 minute cash in on an underground comic book series that most people don’t know about. 80 whole minutes! These guys are really pushing the limits with this one! Yeah. This is Jonah Hex. It sucks, and you’ll probably want your money back…even if you got it for free. I don’t suppose I need to tell you what happens next.

Our movie starts off with some pretentious narration beginning with a guy saying something along the lines of, he’s cashed his last check. I guess he should have switched to Geico, then. The story here is apparently that a gunslinger named Jonah Hex (Josh Brolin) sold out some of his own guys for being corrupt. The leader of these guys, named Turnbull, came and killed Hex’s family, forcing him to watch and then branding his face with a cattle prod. Because I guess tattooing the name across his ass would have taken too much time. By the way, that’s John Malkovich as Turnbull, too. I hope you’re all ready for some more big white teeth action!

No? Well, how about some more mind-fucking, reality-bending existentialism a la Being John Malkovich?

"You'd best not be asking those kinds of questions 'round these parts..."

…we don’t get that either, because I guess John Cusack was off making worse movies. Well, fuck, count me as disappointed, then. Half the time in this film, you can barely even tell it’s Malkovich, the performance is so generic and uninspired.

And then we go through a long, long sequence of animated, pastel-colored images that the filmmakers couldn’t afford to shoot with real actors in this movie’s 80 minute runtime. Because that makes sense. Your movie is already shorter than most made-for-TV movies and it’s padded with cartoon images that move like cheap animatronics. Isn’t that just magical?

Then we see him carrying a bunch of dead bodies on the back of his horse through the desert. All I can wonder is how those actors felt when they had to do this scene over and over again while Josh Brolin scratched his makeup. Seriously, he looks like a horse ate his face, shat it out, ate it again and then spit it all over the camera. When a fat little man with a big, curly mustache straight out of archaic stereotypes refuses to pay Hex for his bounty, Hex shoots them all and then blows up the entire building they’re in. Because that’s just so badass it’s unbelievable!

Because when you can't go for compelling, interesting character development, at least a guy who looks like Two Face can blow shit up!

After that, he goes to visit a hooker played by perhaps the most apt casting choice in this film, Megan Fox. Yes, after all these years she’s finally been given the role she was born for. Isn’t that just wonderful? An actress finally found her way. It’s a story that has been featured in many inspirational magazines in the past. I’m glad she’s finally been put to good use as an actress! Anyway, she and Hex exchange soulless pleasantries and don’t really establish much other than that Fox is a stereotypically sultry seductress without much else to distinguish her as a character. Boring. Oh, but she does dig Hex’s scars! Hah. Don’t make me laugh, movie.

The only reason anyone actually went to see this movie.
This really isn't the time for bondage games, you guys.

So after Malkovich hijacks a train and steals some apparently important stuff, he blows that up too, because it’s an action movie, and it has to have explosions. There isn’t really any other reason for them to be here. One of Malkovich’s guys gets captured by the military and put in a cage for some reason? I don’t know. But he is dead. They call Hex because he was wronged by Malkovich in the past, but luckily due to plot convenience, he can also communicate with the dead. That’s right. Instead of actually having him do work and hunt down the bad guys, or anything else actually EXCITING, they just throw in this half assed cop out. Oh, so he can talk to the dead and threaten them with incredible pain if they don’t cooperate (some kind of weird thing where they burn up if they’re kept ‘alive’ too long)? HOW CONVENIENT!

On top of that, this scene is just horrible, too. Hex starts off by saying what I just told you; that he can raise the dead by touching them, but if they spend too long like that, they start to burn up. But then he keeps talking for so long that it’s like he didn’t even know what he was just saying, and the guy keeps smoldering like a fresh cigarette butt. Come on, man, put the poor sap out of his misery! It’s not so much cruelty and intimidation as it is just plain old retarded, like he wasn’t paying attention.

So then we’re treated to more meaningful cinema, like a guy fighting a weird mutant snake-man hybrid in a primitive cage fight where onlookers bet money on who will win. That’s got a big reason to be in the film! It’s like…uh…wait, I guess I was wrong. It’s completely pointless and only serves to confuse us more as to how this fantasized version of the Wild West works. God, they have this whole new world to show us, but are instead just focusing on trivial, menial things with no real relevance to anything else. Fuck that.

After that scene, we’re given some exposition from Malkovich about the machine they’re building as he talks to his weird tattooed Irish henchman about the superpowered weapons he has, which look like the Dragonballs. This is such an original picture! Apparently these are some sort of weird, primitive nuclear weapons developed strangely in this world by Eli Whitney. Huh? Why Eli Whitney? Did you pull the name out of a hat or something? You could have just as easily gone the extra mile and claimed that Robert E. Lee was secretly a member of a cult of insane fanatics worshiping the Energizer Bunny, who gave them all these glowing ball-sacks to use to destroy the world. I mean, come on. Don’t hold back on us now, movie!

So Hex gets wounded in a fight in town and collapses in the middle of the woods somewhere. While unconscious and being healed by his Indian friends – yes, he has Indian friends now – he experiences a series of psychotic seizures (well, that’s what I’m calling them, anyway) in which he is fighting Malkovich and losing. There’s one part where he gets buried and rises up from the ground covered in dirt…a lot of weird dreamlike camera angles and colors…and I’m just so immensely confused. Was the director just doing a lot of acid? I seriously think this warrants some investigation. He might be in deep shit.

Okay, so Hex is healed, and gets summoned to fight Turnbull at Independence Harbor. Even though he could probably have a whole army with him, as this is now a threat to the entire nation (Malkovich just flat out says that he wants to destroy America…HAHAHA), he goes alone. Because he’s edgy and cool and a loner. This whole thing could be solved in like a second if he just took a bunch of trained soldiers with him and had them all attack. What are you guys, morons? It’s SO EASY to solve this and here you are letting just one battered rebel do it for you? What a bunch of lazy asses. Maybe Malkovich should just go ahead and destroy you all anyway. Hex fights Malkovich, which is interspersed for some reason with scenes from the hallucination he had earlier, in which he…also fought Malkovich. So you get to see two fights between the same characters, at the same time. How worthless are you, movie?!

But oh no! Megan Fox has been kidnapped! Instead of just letting her rot like any sensible person would do, Hex’s brain is apparently still fried from hours out in the sun while he was unconscious, and so he dives selflessly in to save her. Or rather, not selflessly, but for the love of his own penis, which will be quite lonely if he doesn’t save her. So, let’s take a vote: Do you think Hex will save Megan Fox? Write your answers on the papers on your desks and I’ll give you a minute or two to think about it.

Of course he saves her, and of course Malkovich is killed, the nuclear weapons turn into pretty 4th of July fireworks (because it has to be the 4th of July when these events take place) and Hex is offered a position as – get this – SHERIFF OF AMERICA.

I don’t even have words for this. Oh wait, yes I do: Jonah Hex, everybody! Or as I like to call it, Half-Assed, Bottom of the Barrel Dog Shit, the movie! I mean, this is just shit, man; fresh, unfertilized shit straight from the ass of corporate America. The acting is phoned in and lazy, the story is full of holes and wasted potential and there’s just nothing enjoyable about it. I guess some of the action scenes are OK, but are you really going to sift through the rest of this manure for that? No. And you damn well shouldn’t.

All images Copyright (c) of their original owners. None of them are mine.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Review: Queen of the Damned (2002)

Director: Michael Rymer
Starring: Stuart Townsend, Aaliyah

Oh my GOD this was a horrible movie! Just…ugh. UGH. On every level! I can’t think of a better way to introduce this that won’t end in violence to someone, maybe even myself, so let’s just dive right into the crack-induced destruction of everything cinema worked so hard to establish, Queen of the Damned.

The film starts off with the credits, which are played over some shots of statue heads and other Gothic looking stuff, and it quickly goes into our first bit of pretentiously ball-aching narration by lead wannabe transvestite Stuart Townsend, playing here the Vampire Lestat. It starts off pretty typically, giving us the usual spiel about the vampire’s immortality being all fun and games until you realize you’re alone in the world. You know, the usual soul-searching diatribes given. But where it really gets, um, interesting, is what he says immediately after this. He says, in a nutshell, that he wants to become a rock star.

…what? WHAT? I’m sorry, there aren’t enough WHAT’s to go around for that sentence! The logic used is just insane. A vampire is lonely so he becomes a rock star? What kind of lunatic thought that up?! It’s like saying…a werewolf is conflicted because he can’t control his instincts, so he becomes a milk delivery man. Frankenstein’s monster was jealous of other peoples’ ability to feel and emote with each other, so he decided to invent a new type of candy. What’s the connection here? In what fucked up parallel universe does this make sense?

Oh, fuck it, so he goes and…doesn’t waste any time, I guess, as he finds the first shitty ass rock band he can come across and tells them he’s joining them. I love the editing in this scene especially; like when Lestat ‘teleports,’ it’s more like they just turned the camera off and everyone switched places while the director snorted some more coke. Editing so bad you’d swear it was out of a home movie. And Stuart Townsend is just a miracle, isn’t he? It’s like he didn’t even have any direction besides ‘play the most generic pretty-boy vampire ever and make sure to have a condescending smirk on your face and roll your eyes upward at all times.’ I mean, I don't think I've ever seen a worse caricature of every single damned girly-boy, gothy, depressed vampire ever made. He looks the part and he sounds the part, with every bit of smarmy, slick arrogance you'd imagine. And his lines, too. Garbage like "My black little heart" or "There is nothing but the cold, dark wasteland of eternity." Oh, yes, speak to me, great lord of all that is whiny and sissy!

Well, I'd love to say this surprised me, but frankly if Lady Gaga can get popular, this isn't much of a longshot.

Then the director gets bored with that scene, I guess, and jumps forward to a random time when the band is now famous for having a vampire on vocals. Through a lot more directionless narrations that the movie assumes are interesting, we see him getting two random hot chicks at his mansion for…some unexplained reason…and he got them there by doing…some other unexplained thing. I’m glad this movie is so thorough. They try to have sex with him and stuff, but then are, for some reason, surprised when he starts crawling on the wall and then jumps down to “taste” them. Gee, you go to the house of a guy who at least claims to be a vampire and then are surprised when he does something like this? I’d say that makes you FUCKING MORONS! But that’s just my opinion.

And then…a flashback! Because that makes sense! Because the flow of this movie wasn’t incoherent and disjointed enough, we get a random flashback 20 minutes into the movie about the origins of this character. Do you people know anything about telling a story, about coherent narrative flow? What sense does this flashback make, at all? Sigh…okay, so basically the flashback tells us that this other vampire named Marius invaded Lestat’s home one night over 200 years ago and turned him into a vampire. Then, he…oh, wait, we’re switching scenes again; guess the filmmakers decided they didn’t want to take their ADHD pills again.

Now we’re watching a young woman watching one of the music videos of the band fronted by Lestat. She goes into work the next day and tells a board of people in important looking suits – apparently some kind of paranormal research group – that she found hidden messages in one of the band’s songs that leads people to a vampire coven in England…I’m sorry, what? Personally I think the parents whose kids committed suicide because of Judas Priest songs had a better case. Apparently this group has Lestat’s diary in their library somehow? I don’t know, they just needed an excuse to show the flashback.

…and then back to the flashback again! We see Lestat going into this dark chamber and playing a violin really fast, which somehow wakes up this ancient ‘mother of all vampires’ called Akasha, or something, but not all the way. Then Marius plays some kinky bondage games with Lestat – don’t ask me – and leaves randomly, with no explanation given. Apparently a lot of time passes, Lestat…is magically untied somehow…and then wanders the Earth, convinced that he will be alone forever because this one guy left him. What a pussy.

So because she read the diary, the woman, named Jesse, decides she has to see more. So she goes on a plane to England to find the vampire coven. Why? What motivation does she have to do this? I don’t know. I’m just going to assume she got majorly into Twilight a few years after this. It makes sense enough. In the vampire bar she gets into trouble with a bunch of hungry, horny vampires and is saved by Lestat, who happened to be there. This is an excruciating scene with a ton of really, really bad attempts at the whole ‘forlorn, loveless vampire’ cliché shoehorned in with all the articulation of a sledgehammer crashing down on the window of your car. They exchange ominous dialogue in low, whispery voices about how she knows his pain and how she thinks she knows him well, and then the tired, trite scene mercifully ends. God, this movie is lame. It’s like every horrible middle-schooler’s emo-vampire phase multiplied by a thousand and translated into film. It’s just painful beyond belief.

She comes back later to give him the journal, and also because she wants him to take her out and make her a vampire, too. Again, no logical reason why this character thinks this way; she just kind of does. They go out and Lestat scares away some lowlife trying to attack a woman, only to attack her himself.

"I find you sexy because fat 14 year old girls would, and this movie needs to sell sex."
"Is she okay?"
Well...not anymore she isn't.

Meanwhile it turns out that Akasha, that vampire queen from earlier, is apparently awakened again by music, even though it was never explained why she fell asleep again after the first time. What’s up with these vampires being awakened by music, anyway? When was that part of the legend? It’s not that I really mind messing around with the canon, but…this just doesn't make sense. Why was she turned to stone anyway? Why does music of all things wake her up? What kind of music is needed? Will any kind do, or are there certain kinds that work better? There are so many questions here you could just fill a goddamn phone book with all of them and still not have any answers!

So at the concert full of songs written by the douchemonkey from KoRn (and no, I’m actually not making that up; it is true), Akasha attacks and sort of kidnaps Lestat away while Jesse and everyone else is watching. Boy, they must feel ripped off, man. I’d ask for my goddamn money back if I was there. Not that I would ever go to a concert with music from the guy who fronts KoRn sung by a feminine, prissy-goth-vamp poser with a voice like a cat thrown into a cheese grater:

Making even KoRn look dignified. That's impressive!

I actually have self respect. Even if it is diminishing every second I watch this.

Akasha and Lestat talk for a while in low, spooky voices, because there is no other mode of discourse in this film at all, and then we get…uh, well, look at these pictures:

I mean WOW, you thought this movie couldn’t get worse? It just plummeted off a cliff with an anvil attached to its back; that’s how far it just dropped. A stylized sex scene, coming randomly out of nowhere with no warning or segueway, with the two of them reimagining American Beauty’s artsy bathtub full of rosebuds thing. Except here it’s done with all the taste and style of a three month old trash bin! And all the while with horrendous, ass-felching 90s-style nu metal playing in the background. ISN’T THIS JUST SO USEFUL TO THE FILM? I can’t imagine it without THIS scene! Ugh, somebody PLEASE kill me now.

So I guess the movie kind of forgets the whole concert thing, even though that was what it was building up to this entire time, and just throws in a new plot in the last twenty minutes. God, what the fuck, man? Can’t you just stick to one central script and plotline? You’re breaking me here, movie! You’re really pushing me to my limits! From what I can tell, there’s this group of ancient vampires who are in this weird garden-mansion place that apparently Jesse visited a lot as a kid, and has now somehow found again. These guys are all trying to get rid of Akasha, who poses some kind of vague threat to mankind.

Akasha, meanwhile, has killed a bunch of random people and littered them all over the yard of Lestat’s house, which seems to piss him off, because I guess he’s a good vampire now. The two of them go – without Lestat putting on a shirt for some reason; guess they needed the extra fanservice to keep the brainless goth girls watching – to fight those ancient vampires. Akasha gives some generic speech about how mankind is a disgrace and how they should be destroyed, and after watching an hour and twenty minutes of THIS GARBAGE I am inclined to agree.

So Akasha tells Lestat to prove his loyalty to her by killing Jesse. They face one another…the shot dissolves into a very similar shot of them facing each other, from a different angle…and then he bites her. Then he bites Akasha’s arm, too, because this movie really wants to go for the whole ridiculous sexual angle on the vampires. But it turns out he’s just faking it the whole time! And then both Akasha and the viewer are gang raped by silly cartoony special effects:

They kind of eat her alive, which begs the question as to why everyone was so afraid of her…she got killed in like 5 minutes when they actually confronted her; it seemed pretty damn easy! Why were they making such a big deal out of her? She turns into an oil-spill survivor, and then erodes into dust in an extremely over dramatic display of mediocre special effect jerking off that probably cost more money than it did to pay for the writers of the film. Jesse gets turned into a vampire, the soundtrack vomits out some more garbage and I want to gouge my ears out.

I mean, man, this is a miserable piece of cinema. Queen of the Damned is a movie with no reason to exist beyond causing pain. Pure, unadulterated, gluttonous pain, straight from the fiery pitchforks of down below. There is no logic here, no real plot, no anything that isn’t covered in a slimy layer of disgusting music and even more disgusting pretension as it tries to make us think these vampires are SO COOL. This is a movie that exists solely to make ugly black-mascara clad pre-teen girls with no lives or boyfriends squeal – “Oh, it’s so sexy and erotic!” Literally, that’s the only reason this sewer scum ever got popular. Pure wet-dream fuel for people who aren’t going anywhere in life. Fuck that. This shit’s the worst and I can't see any defensible reason that anyone would enjoy it.