Monday, April 25, 2011

REVIEW: Get Low (2009)

I’ve waited a long time to see this film, after hearing about it in the same newspaper column about indie films where I also found the wonderful Winter’s Bone. And it did not disappoint. Get Low is, in all respects, an exemplary film, that anyone whose love of movies extends beyond cheap action and comedy flicks needs to see immediately.

Director: Aaron Schneider
Starring: Robert Duvall, Bill Murray, Sissy Spacek

This film, based on a true story and starring Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek, is about a crazy old hermit who plans his funeral while he is still alive. Now, like you probably are, I was scratching my head when I first heard that. What angle are they going for, I wondered. What logic could there possibly be in planning a funeral while one is still alive? The possibilities seemed hazy and yet also limitless. It was billed as a comedy, but really this is more of a wholesome film that encompasses both comedy and drama into the same heartfelt bundle.

What this film does is keep you interested. Every second is designed to keep you hooked. It starts out with the Robert Duvall character, Felix Bush, searching for a way to get his own funeral planned. The church won’t help him, but a down-on-his-luck and penniless funeral home director, Frank, (Murray) will. Very little is given to you right away. We know from the start that Felix wants a funeral ‘party’ before he dies, and we know that he’s got a story to tell, but not much else. There’s one scene where this guy points a gun at him and threatens him if he doesn’t get out, saying “there’s women and children in here and I don’t want you near them.” Why does everyone hate Felix? That question becomes burned in your brain and you just have to keep watching to find out what the hell he did. And watching Felix beat the jackass up was satisfying, too.

The scenes where him, Frank and Buddy (Lucas Black) are talking over the specifics of the party are great just for how much intrigue is packed into it. You’re literally hanging on their every word to try and figure out what’s going on. It’s such an interesting and out of the ordinary idea that you really want to hear what Felix’s ideas are about it. How can you not? This goes double for the scene in the radio station where Felix is interviewed on the air about the event that “everyone is talking about,” according to the DJ. Great, intriguing stuff – feeds the human hunger for mysteries. That’s really the movie’s first big selling point.

As the film moves along, we get a few more lighthearted moments (check out the photo shoot Felix does for his party; priceless!) before the more serious second half. We are introduced to Mattie Darrow (Spacek), who is an old flame of Felix’s and who is apparently a popular lady in this small town. That’s another thing this movie does well, by the way – you really, really get a feel for this small town atmosphere. You feel like you’ve been living in this town almost as long as the old folks the movie centers on have. That’s very important, and I felt like I was completely immersed in their world rather than just watching another movie. Top notch job there.

Anyway, where was I? Yeah, Mattie Darrow, Felix’s old flame. She’s a kindly old woman who just recently moved back in town permanently, and wants to rekindle her friendship with Felix. The first time you see them together, it’s startling – prior, Felix has not really shown any kind of emotion, but here he starts to seem like a real person, and it’s here that the movie ups its ante from a curiosity to having a serious emotional weight. You start getting clues as to what Felix did here, although I won’t spoil that part for you. See it for yourself.

Bill Murray is probably one of the other best things about this film. And why do you even need more elaboration? He’s Bill Murray! He brings his typical stoic, cut-and-dry expressions and delivery to the table, as well as his awesome smile that you can always tell means he’s got some shifty angle to swindle people with. He just steals the scene every time he’s on screen, and his lines are always hilarious. You really need an example? Fine, how about the scene right in the beginning where he’s first talking to Felix about the party plans? He listens to what Felix has to say, weighs the pros and cons, and when Buddy says that it’s never been done before and calls it ludicrous, Bill Murray just goes, “No, we can do it.” No surprise, not even a blink of the eye. Any opportunity to get cash, he takes, no matter how strange. True, it’s just because he’s going out of business, making it all more dire, but it’s just the way Murray delivers his lines and his facial expressions that makes it so funny.

There is more drama later on, and to the film’s credit, it’s very well done. The film carries its drama with a very dark, graceful kind of sweep, and puts it up against very fitting backgrounds of vast country landscapes in the rain and in the night. This is a very beautiful looking film, with the settings and scenery all being very quaint, old Southern style buildings and scenery that add a lot to the atmosphere. Plus, Robert Duvall is just really excellent at playing a quiet, confusing guy who everyone misunderstands and tries to figure out. He becomes entangled in peoples’ lives even though he has isolated himself for so long as a hermit.

The final day of the ‘funeral party’ arrives and again, I won’t spoil what happens, but I’ll say this: it is very direct, very short and very to the point. But isn’t that the whole message of the film? “Get low,” Felix says at the very beginning of the movie. The man he’s talking to doesn’t understand, and so he elaborates: “Get down to business,” he says. The movie doesn’t waste time at all with its climax. Everyone shows up, Felix speaks his piece, they all go home after the party ends. That’s all you need.

Get Low is a movie about a man trying to make sense of the past and find peace with his confusing and tumultuous life, so riddled with conflict and bloodshed as it was. He wants to set things straight before he dies. It is a powerful, emotional and cognizant journey. You should go see it now. Get low. Put everything else down and go partake in this cinematic gem.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

REVIEW: The Descent: Part 2 (2009)

POLICE REPORT
From the Desk of Sheriff Bradley Pickett
1767 Pinewood Lane, Orlando FL 32822

NATURE OF CRIME: Film-related death.

VICTIMS: One Lawrence Griffin, happened to be viewing the film in full.

SUSPECTS: Director Jon Harris and producers Ivana Mackinnon and Christian Colson.

INJURIES SUSTAINED: Tragic death of individual who viewed a lethal, toxic film.

NOTES: Horribly decayed, face in an expression of awe and shock. Emergency medical examiner reportedly had to avert eyes upon finding the TV still playing the end credits of the film – apparently, even those are toxic. It is no wonder, then, that the deceased was killed by a whole hour and a half of this film…his brain will be dissected shortly to find out the complete cause.

-------

The following is taken from text messages between Dr. Phillip Rahdemaker and his secretary, Tina Jenkins.

R: Isn’t this a shame?

J: I know.

R: I wonder  what would possess a guy to watch a movie like this anyway?

J: Extreme boredom?

R: Looks like he got more than he bargained for.

-------

DR. JOHN STUDMAN’S ANALYSIS:

FOREWARD: The following is all speculation, taken from various sources who knew Lawrence, reviews on his blog and my own knowledge of psychology and of cinema, both of which I have an expertise in. From this point forth Lawrence will be known as 'the deceased' to avoid further confusion.

The deceased was reported to have turned on the film at around 1 in the afternoon. He was immediately prone to an immense amount of uncaring about anything the film did. It was a piecemeal, dullard piece of work. The pacing was so dire that it lacked any tension at all. The first movie started off in a way that introduced you to the characters and gave a good amount of development, but that was quickly shat on with this sequel, as no character was really given any depth or motivation for what they did. Truly this was the work of a writer who had no creativity and nothing at all to contribute to the film world…in fact, consider adding the writer to the list of suspects, too.

For forty minutes the deceased was tormented by the film’s idiotic pacing and horrible characters. The sheriff thinks it’s a great idea to take poor Sarah, who has just come out of the cave from the end of the first one (well, one of the endings anyway) down BACK INTO THE CAVES to search for the missing girls. Why? Wouldn’t it be just the same to go back in there without her? It’s a dark, dank, perilous cavern. How would having her there change ANYTHING that happened? But the sheriff persists, illogically, without reason. And they also hire British people who you can never understand a word they are saying to come and dive the caves with them for no apparent reason – to appear more cultured? Who really knows.

The deceased was subjected to copious amounts of torture as the film plods along doing absolutely nothing even though the plot itself seems like it would naturally lend to at least SOME tension and excitement. This movie was simply so inept that it rendered the deceased insane. It is my standing hypothesis that this was the first stone thrown in the eventual mental decay of the deceased.

And the jump scares, so poorly done that they almost caused the deceased to aneurysm right there. They were all cheap shots, and none were even remotely effective or terrifyingly at all. The deceased detested the jump scares so much that they caused his blood pressure to boil. They were simply so tacky, so evident that no one on the entire film crew had anything better to contribute, anything of higher artistic value. He could not fathom a lower level of worthlessness in horror movie cinema. Even films like The Unborn or Boogeyman had more going on in them, had more merit to them than this did.

Nothing was happening. There seemed to be endless scenes with nothing but people crawling around in the dark, not exchanging any meaningful dialogue and not furthering the plot in any way, just waiting to get killed off like a statistic. The deceased’s brain continued to deteriorate; we hypothesize, with each asinine jump scare, with each assumption by the filmmakers that he would care about what was going on in the movie. The fact was, he simply could not. There was no substance. There was nothing to grasp. The Descent: Part 2 was simply a cinematic dead end. The film attempted to introduce conflict by bringing back a character from the first film, Juno…who is not a sassy pregnant girl…who hates Sarah for stabbing her in the leg and abandoning her at the end of the first one.

But even this did not bring about anything interesting. The deceased became more and more enraged by the ludicrous nature of the scenes where the movie seemingly forgot that Juno had been stabbed in the leg. The character was shown jumping and running around like she had no injuries at all. Even if he were to accept that Juno could have healed enough in 2 days to walk around, the deceased could never have accepted that she would be well enough to do the acrobatic stunts she does…and furthermore, why would Juno have continued fighting the monsters when, at the end of the first film, she and Sarah were so close to the exit when Sarah betrayed her? Wouldn’t it have made more sense for Juno to simply run after Sarah and exit the caves, too? What was the logic in having Juno stay in the caves just to continually fight the creatures for two days? Nothing in the film made sense to the deceased by this point, and his mental fabric was starting to crumple.

The end of the film, after more senseless and random violence that did not really do anything for the story, was simply confusing, and random. By the time the crazy old groundskeeper who was nowhere to be seen in the first movie came out and whacked the one surviving girl on the head with a shovel, inexplicably dragging her back to the opening of the cave, the deceased was mentally beaten to a pulp. The film had taken its toll. What sense did this ending make? None, none at all. Why would the old guy give the girl back to the monsters? Was it a conspiracy this whole time? If so, what the hell was the logic in that? Was he just crazy? The deceased could not wrap his head around this, and blanked out completely, the ensuing last jump scare before the credits the last nail in his coffin, per se. And so, another one was lost.

If only filmmakers would try harder to create movies that made sense. Maybe then we wouldn’t have so many cases like this one, with good people destroyed by films so endowed with horrible writing, lazy pacing, faceless characters and no tension. If only…

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

REVIEW: How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2008)

Director: Robert B. Weide
Starring: Simon Pegg, Jeff Bridges

This movie is pretty much a waste of time. It has an interesting premise, as I don’t really know any other comedies offhand that revolve around being a high profile magazine writer for celebrities, but the movie does absolutely nothing with it, aside from having an extremely long, unwieldy title. Simon Pegg stars as an annoying jackass who wants to ‘shake things up’ at this high profile magazine, at which he is hired after the boss, played by Jeff Bridges, reads a bunch of the slander pieces Pegg has written about him at Pegg’s own underground magazine. Uh, wait, how does that work?

Pegg makes friends with Kirsten Dunst, who sticks around him inexplicably, although I guess it isn’t too much of a mystery when she’s the other woman in the secret affair of the biggest slimeball at the office. The first half of the movie is pretty much just Simon Pegg being a huge unlikeable douchebag and causing trouble for no reason. Apparently the filmmakers realized this halfway through and turned the film into a sympathetic romance in which Pegg is suddenly the guy who “gets it” and learns a big lesson about fame and fortune, rushing into Dunst’s arms, ready for forgiveness. And it’s all just so contrived.

PS, having Megan Fox play an actress who plays Mother Teresa is just stupid. As in, this is so stupid that it made me want to beat my own head with a crowbar every time you show it. I mean it’s MEGAN FOX playing MOTHER TERESA. What more can I say, movie? What more can I say?!

Monday, April 18, 2011

REVIEW: Cube (1997) and Cube 2: Hypercube (2002)

A long time ago, in a galaxy far away…there was an overused cliché from a film series that had much more to offer. And there was also the Cube series!

Bunch of pompous Canadians and Americans get stuck in a big series of cubes together and have to tolerate one another long enough to survive. That plot summary enough for you? Well we got two movies to review today, so let’s just get started.

Director: Vincenzo Natali
Starring: David Hewlett, Nicole deBoer

"This room is green. I want to go back to the blue room."
-Kazan

The first Cube was released in 1997 in some underground Canadian cave…it begins quite humbly with some bald dude getting chopped into bits by razor wire! Isn’t that just cheery?

Some people just can't stay composed.

After that, we meet our first character in Quentin, an angry black man who has perhaps, the widest eyes and most expressive eyebrows ever known to man. He would have been entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for this if he had not mysteriously disappeared before his interview…

"Whatchoo talkin about?!"

Other characters, including Worth, a cynical and depressive guy who has actually worked on parts of the Cube they're all stuck in, Leaven, a sarcastic high school chick who is great at math and serves as the most sensible and level headed character (yup, the high school kid is more sensible than the adults; doesn't say much for them maturity-wise), Rennes, an escape artist who has broken out of several prisons, Holloway, who is a paranoid conspiracy theorist who has not been laid in a long time and switches between raving lunatic and caring, motherly figure depending on who she's talking to, and Kazan, who is straight out of a Stephen King story. You know this character – the mentally handicapped guy who provides comic relief for most of the film, but actually has a special power that makes him actually the most capable of them all to survive. He also has a habit of being incredibly annoying when he wants to. Am I going to hell for saying that about a mentally retarded guy? Just let me know.

Speaking of survival, we get a lot of talk like that from Rennes, who tells everyone else to shut up so he can lead them out of there like he has done in so many prisons before. Two seconds later, he gets fried in one of the Cube’s many traps that the rooms seemingly randomly have in them:

Click HERE to see it, but be warned; it is graphic.

Yeah, that’s gross. But it does underline a very specific point about how this whole thing works. Basically some rooms have deadly traps in them that will instantly kill whoever sets foot in them. It’s a very interesting concept, and really makes for a lot of fun scenes in which the characters have to solve the puzzles, which are frankly the meat and potatoes of the movie, the foundations it is built upon. There are numbers in the crawl spaces between rooms that initially appear very cryptic. But luckily they have a mathematical genius among them to figure it out! What would they have done without her? My guess is, run around like chickens with their heads cut off.

And that ends up being Kazan's special power. Numbers. Just...numbers. Lots and lots of numbers! They sure lucked out in getting two math geniuses who got along so well and didn't end up totally destroying the group like Quentin. That's always a plus.

One other thing I really like about this is the settings, which are basically just identical rooms with a bunch of doors on the walls, floor and ceiling, but they're all colored differently, each with a very different, very heavy hue of red, blue, green, yellow or white. It adds a very alien, foreign atmosphere that serves to enhance the fear and paranoia the characters are experiencing, as there is no other setting like this one - they are completely isolated in a very abstract and strange looking environment. Chilling stuff.

So a lot of this movie is taken up by arguments between Holloway and Quentin, who are both under paranoid delusions, but different paranoid delusions, which actually makes the arguments a little bit funny. Lots of insults get flung around and everyone gets offended at least once…good, solid fun times, I say.

Taking a break from the job after a hard day's worth of arguing.

But the real meat of this movie is when the characters have to get around one of those traps. These scenes are just awesome, and really make this film stand out. Like there’s this one where they have to get across to the next room without making a sound, or else lots of sharp, pointy spikes will shoot out from everywhere and stab them. It's such a tense scene that you yourself will be afraid to say anything, as if your voice can trigger the trap, too. How did they create technology like that? I don’t know, but that’s the scariest thing about this! What other kinds of fucked up shit can the government create, and what can they do with it? Let your mind wander. Not everything you find will be very comforting.

A lot of this film, when it isn't taken up by arguing or by traps, is filled with figuring out clues to how the Cube works. And it's so much fun! I think the main reason for that is that we don't know any more than they do. To watch them working their brains until they're bent in half to figure it out is incredibly interesting, and even when you don't know the science they're talking about. The puzzles are put together well and there aren't any real holes that I can spot. This is a very well constructed movie in regards to the plot and mechanics.

So as the movie goes on, Quentin starts to act crazier and crazier until he just snaps and kills Holloway, dropping her way down the outside edge of the Cube to her death. He's not a very good actor and it comes off as a bit hammy, but this does underline the other big threat that the Cube poses - these people are in an alien environment and could be killed any second. It makes sense that they'd go a little nuts after a while, especially with the conflict of personalities and attitudes.

He makes sexual advances on Leaven (because he hasn't gone crazy enough to want Worth or Kazan sexually yet) and is subsequently ganged up on by everyone else, who squish his head in a door and make him look uncannily like a lost Looney Tune character. Leaven, Worth and Kazan all race to the end of the Cube and Worth decides, after ALL THAT TIME, that he doesn’t want to live and will just stay in the Cube. Seriously, guy? You’re giving up now? That’s like the most inopportune timing ever! It’s like, “Nah, it’s okay, man. I’m cool right here in this death trap where I will probably die a slow death of starvation. That’s alright with me.”

But it’s okay, because then Quentin pops out of nowhere like some Jack in the Box out of hell, and kills Leaven. He also stabs Worth, which I guess will make his tortured life a lot shorter - see? He does uphold the Christian values of loving his neighbor. He helps out anyone in need! Kazan manages to escape and walk into the light…a light which will be EXTERMINATED by the coming of Cube 2: Hypercube.

Director: Andrzej Sekula
Starring: Kari Matchett, Geraint Wyn Davies

"I haven't had this much fun since my 13th birthday!"
-Mrs. Paley

And I mean exterminated, because this movie is just convoluted as hell. It starts off with how I’m pretty sure the casting agency got the actors for this movie – by knocking them unconscious and wrapping them in plastic bags for shipping to a private location. Some chick wakes up on a table inside the Cube and jumps into a door…and then the credits begin. The credits are weird in that they’re…pretty much just the blueprints for the set design with music and graphics put over them. Weird ass choice, movie; weird ass choice.

MY EYES...THEY BLEED.

Then we get our ensemble of characters waking up in the new Cube, which was apparently specifically designed to blind everyone who looks at it. I mean, what the hell, movie? Look at all that white! I’d need sunblock to even walk around in there! Anyway, the first guy we’re introduced to is a beat up looking colonel. I can only imagine that this is not the first time he has woken up in a strange place recently…he doesn’t seem all that surprised. The scene quickly ends and we are then introduced to MORE CHARACTERS!

I know that seems like an exaggerated response to the simple act of just introducing the movie’s characters, but seriously, there are a lot of them. It’s like a fucking Cube family reunion or something; they just threw in every character they could think of, no rhyme or reason at all! I guess the most noteworthy ones are Kate, who is a bland blonde lady who this movie thinks we should cheer for, Simon, an ugly guy who has a knife – that’s real safe – and Sasha, a little blind girl who needs a lot of help. There’s also this computer whiz kid, a generic hot chick in a sexy red dress, a geeky family man named Jerry and this crazy old lady named Mrs. Paley.

Mrs. Paley is quite a handful, isn’t she? She’s so senile that she thinks she’s in some kind of retirement spa or something. Yeah. Because the Cube looks SOOOOOOOO much like a retirement spa, right?! I know she’s senile and everything, but seriously, how can you NOT notice that you’ve been kidnapped and put into something that nobody on Earth has ever seen before? I think that would be at least a little suspicious! Maybe it’s just because I’ve never been old or senile yet, but my thought is, you would be at least a little bit fucking aware of where you were, in this case!

They all wander around like fucking morons for a little while and come across that general guy from the beginning. Oh, and did I mention that the camera loves to do EXTREMELY WEIRD SHIT all the time? Take a look at some of this and tell me I'm not wrong:

GAH! That's too close! Can someone get a restraining order on this cameraman?
What is this, a magazine cover? Get fucking real.
Yeah, try turning the camera the right way, jackass. Maybe you shouldn't drink five bottles of Tequila before coming to work next time! But then again with this movie I can see why you would...

After all that bullshit is over, the characters decide to sit down and finally talk about who they are. Because…that shouldn’t have been the first thing they did, or anything, right? Kate starts to consider the possibility that they have been kidnapped. What, so that wasn’t their first idea for what happened? Did she just think it was a set up for a surprise birthday party? How stupid is this woman?

So some of the rooms in this new Cube are zero-gravity, which means they have to lower themselves in on their jackets tied together. Simon and Jerry start to take off their clothes and I think I’m really starting to get uncomfortable with this movie’s implications. I mean, look at them:

Saucy.

What, is having gay sex part of the plan now? Eugh. Keep that to yourselves, guys. I mean, I'm all for personal freedom and everything, but some things I just don't need to see in a Cube movie!

So, yeah, Jerry reveals some plot devices about how the Cube is actually something called a tessaract, which has more than three dimensions and can bend space and time, or something. I don’t know. This is all very interesting and everything, but in the same movie that has scenes like this in it…


…I can’t exactly get involved as much as I’d like.

Jerry gets killed, and then Simon starts to suspect Mrs. Paley of all people of being a spy. What, the senile old lady? Why? Could you have possibly picked a more random, unlikely candidate to be suspicious of? She probably can’t even tell her shoe from a goddamned toaster; what makes you think she’s capable of being a spy? It's like "Hey, you, person who is removed from reality and handicapped...you must be evil! TIE HER UP AND GAG HER, WE HAVE A SUSPECT HERE!" Talk about illogical. Maybe he's the one who's senile. Anyway, he kills her and then everyone else runs away from him in fear…gee, JUST LIKE THE FIRST ONE. I’m so glad this movie is setting itself apart so well!

So the generic hot chick and that kid that looks like Joseph Gordon Levitt if he were a lot lamer end up in a room by themselves. After some more special effect jerking off where time speeds up and slows down, doing funny things to their voices, they start to talk about themselves. The generic chick reveals she is an attorney for the company that built the Cube. So…what the fuck is she in there for again? Do they always treat the people trying to help them like this? Talk about biting the hand that feeds you! Do you even have an answer, movie? No? I thought so. The two of them start to have sex and…okay, seriously, I think this is how the conversation went during filming:

DIRECTOR: (in a hushed whisper) What do you mean the writer won’t write any more of the script?...uh huh….okay…what do you MEAN he’s killed himself?

GENERIC HOT CHICK: What’s going on over there?

DIRECTOR: Hold on a sec, honey…(in a hushed whisper again, to someone behind the camera) What should we do? You say you’re horny and haven’t gotten laid in the last three weeks? Okay, fine, we’ll do a sex scene.

PRODUCER: Wait! That’s not nearly confusing enough for this movie! Let’s have the two of them have sex while also aging way too fast! And the cameraman can spin the camera around like he’s having a seizure…it’ll be awesome. *snorts more coke*

DIRECTOR: That’s a great idea! *smokes more marijuana*


Yeah, it’s stupid and the only sex scene I’ve ever seen that was worse was in Queen of the Damned. This movie is only slightly better than Queen of the Damned in terms of sex scenes!

Then it’s revealed that Sasha, the little blind girl, is actually the master hacker who created the original idea for the new Cube. Yeah, the helpless scared blind girl is actually an expert computer hacker that even the government wants dead. That’s plausible, right? Right? I’ll humor the director and say yes, but even in that twisted aberration of reality, how stupid is it when Kate acts like it was obvious all along? “Sasha is a nickname for Alexandra,” she says, but not that I've ever heard. Were they just grasping for even the tiniest little thread to connect together? I think they were.

Sasha gets killed by Simon, who then chases Kate throughout the Cube as reality collapses around them. What the movie is really trying to say is, they ran out of ideas, so they just told the special effects guy to improvise some random shit while Kate and Simon ran around in circles on screen.

YES. YOU ARE REALLY SEEING THIS.
Oh GOD, a giant ball of yarn! RUN AWAY!

I mean honestly. What the hell are half of these images? I know they had little budget to work with, but these are just ridiculous! You can’t tell me they couldn’t have tried harder! It gets so bad that eventually there's nothing real on the screen at all. It's like they just knew how little substance they actually had, and so they just threw up their hands and told the special effects guy - who I think was in a Hitler-esque control over most of this movie by this point - to do whatever he wanted, and that they were completely at his mercy. No logic, no reason, just insanity. Pure, undiluted insanity.

Alright, so the movie basically ends with Kate jumping down this hole as the entire Cube folds in on itself and waking up in this government room where it’s…revealed that she had a mission this whole time? She gives them this little thing she took off of Sasha’s neck, presumably some kind of info about the Cube, but how does this make any sense? There was never any indication that she was working for the people who made the Cube! When were we ever given any clues to that? A plot twist doesn’t work if it just comes out of nowhere with no sense or logic with the rest of the film! How incompetent are you ass monkeys?

God, so she gets shot by the government agents from behind, and I almost wish I was in her place at this point. What a trainwreck, what an utter trainwreck.

Okay, so those are the two Cube movies. The first one is a lot of fun, I have to admit. The low budget DIY ethic is endearing, the premise is creative, the sets are cool and the traps are exciting. It’s a great flick to turn on and just have a blast with. This is a movie about paranoia and about 'keeping ones' head down,' which the characters talk about at several points. Nobody wants to see the biggest picture. That's the movie's main message. Because really, why would you want to? It would only scare you. Cube's main point of effectiveness is that it does not show the viewer anything outside of the Cube. You don't need to see it. You just need to focus on what you're actually watching on screen. What's scary is what you don't see, and in that regard, Cube does a pretty excellent job at creating suspense and tension.

The second one…well, it’s got some good ideas. I really think they had some creative ideas working here and that this could potentially have been a good film. It's just that it's also saddled with so many horrible directing choices, nonsensical plot twists, annoying characters and pretty much every other possible thing you can do to make a movie suck that it's just frustrating beyond belief.

So, yeah. One good, one bad…I think it’s a decent tradeoff. Check both movies out if you’re curious. They’re at least worth one viewing each. And yes, I know there was a third one, but it was pretty much the same thing as the original for most of its duration and there wouldn't be a whole lot to say about it. It isn't bad. But these two are the more important installments in the series, especially if you've never seen one before.

Images copyright of whoever originally owned them, blah, blah, blah. But I did the pictures for the review of the second one!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

REVIEW: Hanna (2011)

Director: Joe Wright
Starring: Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett

Well, what can I say about this? The trailer looked frigging awesome. I mean, it seriously looked cool beyond belief, like some cutting edge, fresh action flick with a new twist. Just watch:


So, I was hyped up, and what sometimes happens when you do that? You get let down. It’s not to say Hanna is a terrible film, or even really a bad one, but it’s just so…average. That’s the best word for it. Average. Pedestrian. Nothing out of the ordinary. It’s an action movie about a girl who lives in the woods, has superpowers and is suddenly jerked out of her usual surroundings to…well, the rest of the world…where she is forced to do exactly what she has been doing all her life: fight. That’s…that’s pretty much it.

Really. I was hoping for a lot more from this! It’s an action movie about a girl who has a mission to kill these people who want to experiment on her, or kill her, or whatever it is they want to do – it’s very vague – and that’s it. There is no double meaning her, no deeper roots to this story. I do not feel that the characters are given much depth. The motivations are all pretty scanty and while the acting isn’t bad, none of the actual characters are fleshed out to the point where I wanted to find out what happened to them. There's Cate Blanchett, but I'll be damned if her character is any more interesting than a passing curiosity. Eric Bana is pretty much a stock background character with little to distinguish him from any number of other, similar characters. Tom Hollander is pretty interesting at first, but by his last scene he's mostly just annoying and creepy.

There is this family that Hanna meets on her travels that is basically eccentric. The daughter is completely wacky and has a bunch of really weird, funny lines, and the family in general basically keeps the movie grounded, providing a framework of contrast to measure Hanna against, and also giving her a tenuous link to the outside world. This is the potential the movie had right here – it could have been a good story about a fish-out-of-water on a dangerous mission becoming more and more ‘human’ by interacting with these people. There is one scene where Hanna and the daughter pick up some guys and go hang out at this festival thing, or something, and Hanna and the guy almost kiss. But she flips him over and almost attacks him, which is a fitting metaphor for most of the movie – almost building up to something engaging, but pulling back before it actually happens.

The family is cut out of the picture halfway through the movie, though, and that’s about the point where the level of interest starts to dramatically decline. Sure, you get a few good action scenes, but there’s no real heart or soul to it, and the story does not remain engaging. The plot is vague and the characters are not really interesting. And even then, how am I supposed to believe that this powerhouse of a little girl would just lay down and hide while everyone around her gets killed? She’s clearly shown that she can kick some serious ass, so why are there so many scenes of her hiding and trying to evade capture? She could probably kick all of these assholes to the curb in a second! It doesn’t make any sense.

OK, so the setting is wonderful, and the atmosphere is so thick you could cut it with a knife. I like the wintry forest setting and I like the strange, alien sense that you get when Hanna is thrust into the rest of the world. You really get a sense of what it’s like through her eyes, especially in this one scene where she’s in her hotel room and gets totally overwhelmed by everything moving and making noise – that’s realistic. That’s a good scene. That’s the kind of thing the movie was going for overall, I think.

This film is not bad, but honestly, wouldn’t you hope for something more, too? From the initial set up, which was very promising, I was expecting this to evolve into an introspective and intelligent twist on action/thriller movies, but I guess that’s my mistake. Lesson learned  - don’t expect too much from anything at first. Decent but indistinct.

Monday, April 11, 2011

REVIEW: Jason X (2001)

Due to some complications with the Cube movies, I can’t review them now and will have to do it later. So to tide you over, I think I’ll do another movie…but which one? I don’t have anything! There must be some poor sap of a film I can take a look at and make people laugh…something so worthless and so hackneyed in every possible way that it MUST be destroyed by me! But what?

NOOOOOOOOOO!
Director: Intergalactic Space Scum
Starring: Hot chicks, dumbass guys and Jason.
Websitehttp://www.imdb.com/title/tt0211443/

"It's OK, everybody! He just wanted his machete back!"
-A Very Stupid Man

After the opening credits, which look like something out of Eli Roth’s wet dreams, we start off with a nice shot of Jason as the camera rotates around to show us his ugly head while some words flash across the bottom of the screen. Apparently Jason is a test subject for the ‘Crystal Lake Research Facility’ now…yeah, the summer camp where people get killed all the time has a research facility now, go figure. And aside from that, the government really thinks it’s a good idea to keep JASON VOORHEES around to study him? The guy who always finds a way to break loose and kill everybody around? Don’t these morons learn ANYTHING? You know he’s gonna break out in some implausible way (probably by pulling a Houdini on the a-hole guard that put a blanket over his head and switching places with him), kill everyone, and cause havoc…


…so why bother?

So then Jason gets shoved into this cryogenic chamber thing and accidentally presses a button that locks both him and this scientist chick named Rowan inside as they freeze up for the next few hundred years...can anyone say HALF-ASSED SET UP FOR A SLASHER FILM? I can...and that's why I am forever doomed to review this garbage.

Then the Repo-Men (or people that look a fuckton like them) come in after a quick fade to black and uncover the ruins of the place, now covered in cobwebs and stuff. Apparently this is some kind of class field trip in the future where they apparently travel to other planets. They find Jason inside the chamber thingy and are confused as to what that thing is on his face. Apparently hockey has been outlawed since 2024…? OK, whatever. There’s even a futuristic version of a 90s stoner, because that’s a subset of humanity that deserved to live on into the future, right? He looks like the bastard Jamaican son of Rob Schneider and a mentally retarded horse and by the end of his first scene you’ll be wishing he was dead.

"I'm not even annoying enough to get more than a few lines!"

So then the frozen corpse of Jason, complete with the machete still standing upright in his hand, slices the kid’s arm clean off when it falls down. But don’t worry, they have some bullshit technology to fix it so that it doesn’t even matter, like getting a little bug bite. The others find Rowan’s body and decide, with all the powers of ridiculous pseudoscience, that they can revive her!


It doesn’t even matter that she’ll need years of therapy to recover from being frozen for centuries, JUST DO IT!

Oh, and did I mention how stupid this whole crew is? When the pilot hears that they found a woman frozen on the ground, without hearing anything else, he starts asking about how hot she is. That’s really all that matters! And the other male crew members all act equally as horny! Even though like half of their ship is beautiful, perfect-bodied young women, they’re really surprised when they get another one on there. What, are the rest of these chicks just not good enough? Or maybe they’re just not putting out. Hell, reproduction with these idiots doesn’t sound that profitable. I think most of these kids are from the Special Ed school in the future, not anything that actually produces well functioning members of society. That would make more sense.

Oh and there’s another guy who is in charge of helping the ship land, or something, and he basically just sits around in his chair and acts like a grouch to everyone, like he isn’t interested at all. Yeah, that’s real safe; exactly the kind of guy I’d trust for such an important job. Could be worse, though. Could be that manic depressive robot from Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

"I think you ought to know, I'm feeling very depressed."

AHHHHHHHH!

The next five or so minutes is pretty much just technobabble improvised on the spot to try and sound smart as the crew revives Rowan, who is wearing something that looks like it’ll fall off any second if she stops holding it. Well now I can see why these guys like getting new women on their ship all the time.


So the doctor-professor guy who runs the operation talks to an old guy on some futuristic version of Skype and finds out who Jason is. Wait, are you seriously telling me, movie, that even 455 years in the future, ON ANOTHER PLANET, people know Jason? I know he’s killed a bunch of people, but holy shit, that’s a giant fucking leap right there! I mean, seriously? He only killed in one backwater town in the United States the whole time, how has his legacy been so preserved?

But that doesn’t matter. We have…uh, well, this, to watch now:

This gross, disgusting pornography brought to you by the people who thought it would be a good idea to put Jason in space.

Yeah, I’m not even addressing that. The images alone speak volumes for how much humankind has progressed in the last 400 years!

Then we get...the robot chick's nipples falling off. Does this movie just have a fascination with nipples or something?

There were starving children in Africa who weren't helped because money was being put toward this scene. You may now cry.

Uh huh. A guy having sex in a blue dress while getting his nipple pinched and a robot with loose nipples; that’s how far we’ve come in the future, guys! It doesn’t look good. I think Idiocracy had a more intelligent future!

Then Jason comes back to life and pretty much starts slaughtering everybody. And…it’s boring. It’s really, really boring. I mean, holy shit. The movie keeps repeating itself! Jason kills some stock asshole in some uninspiring way, and then some other stock asshole finds the first stock asshole and talks into his or her walkie-talkie all serious and emotional-like, “Sarge…he’s dead.” Rinse and repeat. Don’t you think it’s pretty obvious what’s going to happen after the first two or three times? Why is everyone so surprised when their friends keep turning up dead? It’s like…god, do you have the attention span of a goldfish? If you split up and wander around a dark ship where Jason is, you’re going to get killed. DON’T BE SO SURPRISED ABOUT IT EVERY GODDAMN TIME!

How did this movie get green lighted again? There must have been some kind of foul play involved; there’s no other explanation. I’ll figure it out eventually, just give me a minute or two.

So the corrupt doctor guy who wants Jason so he can make money off of him is like “It’s OK, they know what they’re doing.” Yeah, the people getting killed off like villains’ henchmen in a bad video game know what they’re doing. That’s why they’re constantly calling in every five seconds to tell the sarge who just died…blackmail; it must have been blackmail. Or maybe he lost a bet.

Then they try to land on this other planet, or landing strip, or whatever, but Jason kills the pilot without them knowing, so the ship crashes into a few buildings and suddenly the whole thing just disintegrates. What, was it made out of paper mache? I mean Jesus, that’s a pretty fucking wimpy planet! …It must have been both losing a bet and blackmail, at the same time. Along with a heavy state of inebriation. That must be how this was made.

Jason confronts the doctor guy in the room after everyone else runs away and takes back his machete. This prompts the doctor to tell everyone it’s OK, because Jason just wanted his machete back. Yeah. It’s A-OK now! The psychotic serial killer with super strength who is pretty much invulnerable to anything ONLY WANTED HIS SHARP, POINTY MURDER WEAPON BACK. There’s no cause for alarm at all! OK, I’m convinced. None of these people are worth saving. We should probably just…end the world now to prevent this horrible future of nothing but MORONS from coming to pass. Quick, everyone! Pollute the atmosphere! Provoke your governments to unleash their nuclear weapons! We must avert the horrible fate of the Jason X future at all costs!

How much time’s left in this movie? A half hour? God, what more could they possibly torture us with at this point? I’m never going to survive this; it’s completely hopeless! Oh well. At least I can somewhat entertain myself by looking at the fashion choices the women of this world make. Does anyone else think more women should dress like this now? Maybe make this a new fashion statement?

The whole open-jacket-revealing-boobs thing is actually a good idea. Maybe the future world is onto something after all.

So the geeky guy kisses the robot chick as the camera spins around like the cameraman was on a Merry-Go-Round…go figure for what the point of that was…and Jason kills a few more people. For some reason this one chick who got into the getaway ship attached to the bottom of the larger base won’t let anyone else in, because I guess she’s afraid Jason will come in if she opens the doors. But seriously. She won’t even help her classmates? What the hell? I give this girl the All Time Pussy Award.

Then Jason gets shot up by the android chick and is left for dead…and like true fucking idiots, they just leave him lying there instead of doing anything smart like, oh I don’t know, THROWING HIS DISMEMBERED BODY OFF THE SHIP. That would be too obvious for this cutting edge team of badasses! They patch up that black guy who almost got killed before, and then get in contact with another ship coming toward them. Unfortunately, before this can happen, Jason magically revives himself and now looks like the retarded version of the Mighty Ducks. I'm dead serious.


Strikes fear into the heart of...people who hate ducks, I guess...

He punches a hole in the wall and somehow activates this gale-force wind that seems to be coming from outside the ship…? I don’t know, but that chick with the slutty outfit gets killed and everyone shouts at the top of their lungs like this is the most epic cinematic moment ever put onto celluloud. Please. I’ve eaten hamburgers more epically. The ass cracks of the aliens in Aliens were more interesting.

Oh, and then there’s the part where they distract Jason while they’re fixing some bullshit on the ship, and put him in a hologram world that looks like good old Crystal Lake. Needless to say, he gives these two holographic nude girls the slumber party of their lives.

And after that they painted each other's toenails.

Jason finally gets tackled down to “Earth 2” (you just got that picture off Google and put it into the background of your green screen) and the movie ends with his mask floating to the bottom of the ocean, ready for more sequels that will never be made because this movie sucks! I mean it’s just horrible! All the other Friday the 13th movies always had at least one or two good moments that made them fun to watch, but this? This is just shit. It’s boring, it’s stupid, it’s annoying, it’s just all around crap, and it merits no further discussion. Get this off my Netflix instant viewer immediately!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

REVIEW: The Sixth Sense (1999)

Director: M. Night Shyamalan
Starring: STUTTERING STANLEY!

“STUTTERING STANLEY! STUTTERING STANLEY!”
-Cole

What can you say about M. Night Shyamalan? Well, lots of derogatory things. But what about the movies he made that were actually not all out terrible as opposed to just…hollow, and without much feeling that isn’t sappy melodrama? That’s right. This is The Sixth Sense.

The film starts out with Bruce Willis and his wife celebrating an award the mayor gave him for being a great psychologist. They go upstairs to have hot steaming sex and decidedly do NOT notice the crazy man in his underwear standing in their bathroom waiting for them. That’s a real buzzkill on the sexual tension, guy. Don’t you have any tact? Next time wait till AFTER they’re done ravaging each other to go nuts. It’s just proper manners and all.

So yeah, this is apparently one of Willis’ old patients who feels like Willis didn’t help him at all and maybe even made his problems worse. He says everyone calls him a freak. He pulls out a gun from God knows where – he’s only wearing his underwear, remember; so I don’t know if I want to think about where it was before…and then he shoots Willis straight in the chest, not even giving him one chance to say anything. He then shoots himself as the camera fades to black…to “the next fall.”

We then see Willis sitting outside this house on a breezy autumn day right out of any given commercial. Haley Joel Osment comes out and runs down the street, with Willis in hot pursuit. He goes into a church to play with his toys, because that’s where you always went to play when you were a kid, right? I remember I used the holy water to make a flood on my GI Joes. And in the confessionals we played hide and seek. Oh the fun times I had.

"Don't you mess with the action figures. My Macaulay Culkin-esque demeanor does NOT approve!"

So yeah, this is Cole, one of Willis’ new patients apparently, who likes to follow him wherever he goes and try to get him to talk about his feelings. They have some conversations and Willis even comes back again the next day at Cole’s house, where Cole just doesn’t want to talk. Willis tells Cole that if he can guess what Cole is thinking, then Cole has to take steps forward until he’s sitting in the chair opposite Willis. Of course, Cole goes along with it, even though everything Willis asks seems to be pretty specific. I think in reality this question-and-answer exchange might go a little bit differently:

BRUCE WILLIS: You’re thinking that your mom abandoned you after your father left.

COLE: What are you talking about, wacko? I just got home from school and I want some Cheez-Its. *steps back*

Oh, and the kid also has a watch, which apparently his father gave him before he left. Hmmm…


Well, I guess we know what really happened to it. I’m glad that problem’s solved.

So after that, Cole goes to school again the next day, where his teacher asks the class what the history of the school is. Cole says people got hanged there, and the teacher says that it isn’t true. Cole thinks the teacher is looking at him funny and calls him out on it. Cole starts screaming violently at the guy, shouting “STUTTERING STANLEY, STUTTERING STANLEY!” over and over again. Yeah, apparently that’s what all the kids used to call the teacher when he was a kid. How Cole knows this isn’t yet explained, but it is really funny and probably the only part of this movie that really got a reaction out of me. I mean, it’s just so over the top goofy sounding. He just cups his ears and starts fucking screaming at the poor guy. On top of that, wouldn’t it suck to coincidentally have a name that starts with the same letter that your disability does? That’s just asking for it.

After Stuttering Stanley calls him a freak (is there no other insult in this world but ‘freak’?), Cole is sitting alone waiting for his mom when Bruce Willis comes in again. They have another conversation about Cole’s insecurity and I just have to wonder, how many times are they going to do this? It’s like the movie has such a short attention span that it thinks we wouldn’t get the point if they didn’t CRAM IT IN every five minutes that Willis is trying to help Cole out. We get it. You can do something else now. Oh, so Willis shows Cole a magic trick with a quarter? Big whoop.

So Cole gets invited to this other kid’s birthday party who he apparently doesn’t like. He shows the same trick with the quarter to some other kid, who promptly tells him it’s stupid. Cole is so frustrated at this that he leaves and goes upstairs, where a ghost is rattling around inside a cupboard. These two bullies happen to see him from downstairs, and follow him up there. Because all little kids aside from the main character are little douchenozzles with no human qualities, they lock him inside the cupboard as he screams for his life. Isn’t that just precious? Speaks volumes for the rights and protection of little children everywhere! His mom gets him out but by then he’s already fainted and has to be taken to the hospital.

Now, brace yourselves, audience. You’re about to witness one of the GREATEST…no, no, that won’t work…one of the MOST MEMORABLE…no, no, that isn’t it either…oh, I got it. YOU’RE ABOUT TO WITNESS ONE OF THE MOST OVER-USED POP CULTURE PHRASES OF THE 90S! As Willis comes into the hospital room – does he have any life besides tending to this kid? I mean, I’m glad to see a doctor taking a personal interest in his patients but GEEZ – Cole is lying there and says he’ll finally tell Willis his secret. He says “I see dead people.”

Well so do they, and look how they turned out!

Yup. That’s the big reveal. No big secret behind it, no explanation, no nothing. Just “I see dead people.” And we’re supposed to ACCEPT that, movie? We’re supposed to buy this obvious cop out of cheap writing? You expect me to just lie down and TAKE this?

…well, yeah. Yeah. That is what I’m going to do.

So apparently Cole sees ghosts everywhere and they try to talk to him. He’s afraid of them, so Willis tells him – apparently not questioning this at all or thinking about the repercussions of telling him to keep indulging in his could-be-insane-fantasies – to try and actually help the ghosts next time. The movie, ignoring the fact that this could be a potentially awesome plot for an entire other film, mostly shoves this into the last third of its running time. We see several ghosts roaming his house, including one kid that was shot in the head by his own father and a sick, diseased looking mom that slit her wrists trying to escape her abusive husband. So yeah. Those would make for interesting plotlines, right? These will really give the film the extra edge it needs to forever etch itself inside the viewer’s mind, right?

Too much oatmeal...

No, instead they go ONLY with the little girl whose mother poisoned her until she died, which I have to say is a much less interesting plot. What kind of fucked up parent would do that? Why? Well, I looked on the Wikipedia page for this movie and it claimed that this is actually a form of child abuse called Munchausen syndrome by proxy. How did Shyamalan know enough about this disease to include it in his movie? My guess is he spent a day looking through medical textbooks for some obscure disease that nobody in the mainstream would know about. But at least somebody’s being creative…not like you’d see that from him again in the future too much.

Then in the car later he tells his mom that he can see ghosts, citing that his grandmother comes to visit him all the time from beyond the grave and tells him that she’s proud of his mother every day. This provokes an extremely sappy and overdone scene that mostly makes me roll my eyes and tap my feet on the floor waiting for it to end.

Meanwhile, while that’s going on we get Willis’ side of the story. Apparently his wife doesn’t like the person he’s become after he got shot in the beginning of the film. Gee. I wonder why that is? It couldn’t possibly be because he’s been spending every waking moment with a little kid who claims to see ghosts, could it? Maybe she wouldn’t cheat on you if you actually gave her the time of day! Maybe if you…oh, wait, I’m sorry, we have a big stupid plot twist interrupting: HE’S BEEN DEAD THE WHOLE TIME AND HAS NOT BEEN ABLE TO ACCEPT IT! Through a montage of scenes we already saw in the movie, Shyamalan guides us safely through this whole thing without any confusion at all. Because, as the viewers, we are far too stupid to figure it out for ourselves. Aw. How nice of him.

So yeah, The Sixth Sense; it’s pretty much lame and yet everyone loves it for some reason. Admittedly, this is a lot better than most of the bullshit I review on this blog. It’s decently acted, the story is told OK and the recurring themes and elements are well done for a pop film intended for wide audiences. It might not be the most intelligent or the most emotional film out there, and it doesn't delve as much into Cole's psyche and problems as I would have liked, but I can at least kind of see why people like it so much. Even if I think it’s pretty boring and silly. But enough of that shit. It’s time to review the Cube movies.



AHHHHHHHH!