Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Classic Review: The Naked Gun (1988)

Welcome to a new section of the site called Classic Reviews, where...I basically just review classic movies. This needs distinction because these are not unfamiliar movies to the general public, and I'm really just engaging in some discussion of why said movie is so great. Is it maybe just like the regular reviews? Well...shut up; this is The Naked Gun.

Director: David Zucker
Starring: Leslie Nielson, Priscilla Presley, George Kennedy

Frank: It's the same old story. Boy finds girl, boy loses girl, girl finds boy, boy forgets girl, boy remembers girl, girls dies in a tragic blimp accident over the Orange Bowl on New Year's Day. 
Jane: Goodyear? 
Frank: No, the worst. 

This is comedic gold. Leslie Nielson really sells himself here as Lt. Frank Drebin, the hilariously inept cop out to stop an assassination attempt on the queen. Really this is just one of those old school comedies that gets everything right. It isn’t afraid to be as wacky and over the top as possible, and I think that’s really the key with a great comedy flick. You don’t have to work with the laws of reality, and you can have a story going on while doing whatever you want. You have to keep the jokes coming like bullets from an automated machine gun, and a mix of visual and verbal comedy makes it even better.

Mayor: Drebin, I don't want anymore trouble like you had last year on the South Side. Understand? That's my policy. 
Frank: Yes. Well, when I see 5 weirdos dressed in togas stabbing a guy in the middle of the park in full view of 100 people, I shoot the bastards. That's *my* policy. 
Mayor: That was a Shakespeare-In-The-Park production of "Julius Caesar", you moron! You killed 5 actors! Good ones. 

The Naked Gun is just supreme. It’s like the whole world is looked at through a funhouse mirror. The plot is pretty simple – Drebin, while trying to liberate the name of his friend Nordberg (OJ Simpson), stumbles into a plot to kill the Queen of England. And hilarity ensues along the way in spades.

Frank: It's true what they say: Cops and women don't mix. It's like eating a spoonful of Drano; sure, it'll clean you out, but it'll leave you hollow inside. 

The comedy in the dialogue is loud, proud and crude, but the visual humor is there too, and although it’s certainly not subtle or anything, paying attention throughout the whole thing yields a LOT more humor than is initially apparent. The Naked Gun is just a really brilliant comedy with a ton of really hilarious moments and that good old na├»ve, light-hearted, good natured comedy. Everything feels so zany and larger than life, with each joke put in exactly the right place and given the right emphasis – this is not a sloppy movie at all. But even through the intelligent structuring and well-made nature of the movie, it’s still impossible not to have fun when watching, as every inch of it is taken up with the desire to make you laugh. And how can you really resist? I’d name highlights but really, there’s no point in this movie that I wasn’t having fun with. A masterwork of comedy and a true classic.

Frank: Just think; next time I shoot someone, I could be arrested.

Quotes from IMDb. And from the movie.

REVIEW: Venom (2005)

Today we are going to be looking at a movie by Jim Gillespie! You know. The guy responsible for such classics as I Know What You Did Last Summer and D-Tox. Yeah, you’re probably asking yourselves, why am I even doing this to myself? I’ve already experienced the utmost ineptitude of this man twice before, so why should I even bother with his third film at all? Well, I’m nothing if not a completionist. So let’s take a look at Venom!


Not quite…

Director: Jim Gillespie
Starring: Agnes Bruckner, Jonathan Jackson

There we go!

So, Netflix envelope, what do you have to tell us about this movie? “Exploring the murky swamps outside of New Orleans, a group of young people don’t expect to have company. But they meet Mr. Jangles, a madman who’s possessed by 13 unlucky souls killed by a voodoo priestess who now spends his time hunting victims. With each new body, he adds a key to his ring of death – and an extra jangle to his calling card.”

Get used to that because it is NOTHING like the movie I just saw! And I’m being serious there. That’s not even what this movie is about at all; no Mr. Jangles, no exploring swamps, nothing about exactly 13 souls – none of that. Either Netflix just screwed up, or – the more likely answer – the people who made this movie just didn’t give a rat’s ass about getting anything right. The rest of the movie pretty much confirms those suspicions, so let’s go ahead and watch it.

We start off in the murky swamps outside of New Orleans, where an old lady is digging a hole for her career after this movie. She touches a weird little necklace thingy and gets a flashback of some of her better days from it, filled with tortured screams. Then she does some more chanting and the screen cuts abruptly to a little fast food joint where a bunch of pretentious college kids angst about their “backwards” town – which we never really see outside of the diner, so it’s pretty pointless. One guy named Eric is having girl troubles because his ex, Eden, is working at the counter of the diner and he’s too nervous to go talk to her! Because he’s a wuss.

Meanwhile she’s feeling nervous, too, but it’s OK, because her supportive generic black friend tells her everything will be cool in the end, because she has a feel for these things. But unless that means that the two of them will both be hunted by a supernaturally powered serial killer, then I’d say her feel is a bit off its game tonight. We then get introduced to a guy named Ray, who drives in what looks like a big military tank and is apparently hated by most of the town for no discernable reason. His son is Sean, who hangs out with the main characters. Apparently Ray walked out on Sean and his mother when Sean was young, and so that’s one reason why Sean hates him…and I guess we’re supposed to care or something…I don’t know. I was struggling to stay awake.

After work, Eden goes riding on her bike in the rain when she’s confronted by Eric, who parks his car in the middle of the road right next to a bridge so he can talk to her. They have a talk that basically boils down to this: Eric doesn’t like that she wants to go to a different college than the one they planned, even though she obviously would be happier there. Like any good boyfriend he doesn’t care about what she wants, and only wants what’s best for himself. Yeah, yeah, whatever; can we get to the part where they die now?

So Ray comes up behind them in his super monster truck and warns them to get off the road before an accident happens. Then irony strikes and an accident happens to him instead, as the lady from the opening sequence comes over the bridge and swerves to avoid his truck, sending her little car halfway off a bridge. Ray goes to save her and he does, but then she tells him to get the box in the back seat, which has snakes in it! I always love carrying boxes with snakes in the back of my car on long rainy nights. It’s only logical.

"Why'd it have to be snakes...?"

So Ray gets surprised, causes the car to sink and ends up going down with it. The police find him later and can’t tell if he died from a snake bite or from drowning, but I guess either way the implausibility of the whole scenario is still a mile high. And his wounds look NOTHING like snake bites! It’s more like he was just drooled on by a radioactive catfish. Which would make a much more interesting movie, actually.

But yeah, he comes back to life and kills some useless random characters. The next day everyone is having fun despite the odd tragedy that happened, when they find out that even more people are dead. The one girl, CeCe, whose grandmother was actually the old lady from the beginning has retreated to her grandmother’s old fashioned big house in the middle of a swamp, so that’s where Eden and her friends go. CeCe tells them a nice fairytale about how mambos could take the evil out of stuff and put it into snakes. Then she says that that’s what all the snakes were about, and that Ray has all the evil in him now, so he’s Jason Voorhees.

"I'm like a more boring Jason!"
"Damn right."

But seriously, you'd think the old hag would have tried to be more careful with all that evil riding around in her car...oh, who am I kidding anyway? There wasn't any logic put into this. Don't think that's going to stop me from complaining about the rest of the movie anyway though.

Ray goes around and does silly little things like turning peoples’ cars over, because that clearly shows how evil he is. Actually I don’t even think that part was supposed to be in the script. Some local kids probably just saw them filming this stupid thing and flipped the car over while no one was watching, and then the director just decided to keep it in the script. You go Jim Gillespie! Always with the pointlessness. You could argue that this was done to keep them from leaving. But it wouldn’t really matter anyway, since possessed Ray can clearly pretty much kill whoever he wants, whenever he wants at any time. So…yeah, pointless.

Meanwhile we get a scene from another movie that Gillespie probably just stole, and we see that Sean is freaking out because everyone compares him to his deadbeat dad Ray, who is obviously now killing everyone. It’s actually not a bad scene, and with some tweaking, could have been fairly emotional. But then they go and join the Voodoo House Party where the other characters are, and the movie just goes back to being pointless and irrelevant.

Ray kills a few people in boring ways, including Sean, who – get this – the group decides to turn him into a human voodoo doll. And it works. Seriously, movie; a human voodoo doll that actually works? That’s so stupid it’s practically astronomical. But yup, they’re actually doing it, because I guess you can do whatever you want as long as you have voodoo as an excuse! But they don’t get to do it as smoothly as they would have liked. Ray is apparently the smartest voodoo-possessed zombie ever, as he manages to tie some chains to the house, tie those to his truck and then rip off the front of the house. They try stabbing his dead-voodoo-doll-son a few times and it actually works, harming him, but after he kills CeCe, they run away and leave Sean’s body there, even though CLEARLY they could easily use it to finally kill Ray once and for all. But this movie isn’t long enough yet. We need to add more crap to pad out the length!

They have a car race, and Ray decides he wants to go fishing, and throws his chains to where they land PERFECTLY around the throat of one of the other girls, who he pulls out of the car hook, line and sinker. The others try to save her but fail, and she gets impaled. They never at any point think about going back and using the voodoo doll to kill Ray, but they do decide the best idea is to drive to the swamp and run around there, where his evil lair conveniently is. Oh you stupid, stupid people. But we’re not at an acceptable movie length time yet. We need to keep the clock running!

"Spreading my arms out like this makes me look REALLY ominous!"

So Eden hides in his…random coffin of dead bodies…because obviously even though he’s smart enough to operate a vehicle and coordinate a trap to rip the front side of a house off, he won’t ever notice an extra body in there that he didn’t kill. Dumbass. But Eric sacrifices himself and Ray gives him some extremely cheap and quick brain surgery, so it’s OK in the end. Eden tries to sneak up on Ray from behind, but he literally has an eye in the back of his head and catches her before she can do this. They fight, she actually CATCHES HIM ON FIRE and pushes him down into a hole, but it’s OK again because the fire magically all burns out by the time he hits the floor. Must be that K-Mart brand. She gets out of the hole and instead of killing him, just closes it up and runs away. Hey, let’s check that timer.

Hmmm, nope, still need an extra 5-10 minutes of padding! Let’s see what we can excrete from the bowels of cinematic pointlessness…

How about we have her get in his truck at the end and run him over so hard that he bursts in half and has snakes come out?

Yeah I think that’s a wrap. Roll the credits and go home. No, seriously. That’s really all that happens. They roll the credits right after he dies, like they were saying “Nope, we’ve wasted enough of our audience’s time already. Just put the credits up after the villain dies and we’ll call it a day.” That’s very considerate of you, movie.

All in all, this movie wasn’t that bad. It certainly wasn’t good, but I can say I’ve seen worse. At the end of the day it was mostly just forgettable.

No, no, no, no…this is the end of the month! I can’t just end a month with such a tiny whimper of a review conclusion! I’ve got to make it BIG and EPIC and MEMORABLE! I know. I’ll conveniently forget about the movie’s redeeming qualities and just rave about the bad points, exaggerating them for comedic purposes. Doesn’t that sound fun? OK, go:

This was the worst thing since Hitler! It truly embodied everything immoral and sinful about the human race, and proved once and for all that there are no good movies after the year 2000. Because after 1999 there came a horrible plague upon the movie world that simply wiped out any and all quality whatsoever. And this movie, this Venom by Jim Gillespie, was the absolute nadir of that Holocaust of cinema! Venom represents all that is wrong with the world, and if you like it, your head should be placed upon a stake and left to rot in the cold wastelands of the arctic. And everyone should agree with me, for I am truly the bastion of…uh, truth.

And now I'm bored. Review over, then.

Monday, June 27, 2011

REVIEW: The Hole (2001)

Director: Nick Hamm
Starring: Thora Birch, Keira Knightley, Desmond Harrington

This is one of those movies I just don’t know what to say about. The Hole is a 2001 horror/thriller/mystery mutt of a movie that has actors like Keira Knightley and Desmond Harrington in it, as well as a convincing and pretty well acted lead played by Thora Birch. This is a very British movie, with lots of accents and school uniforms and foggy skies and everything, complete with an extra dose of those ultra-frilly looking old houses. Oh yeah and lots and lots of murder, sex and blood. Welcome to England!

OK, OK, just kidding. The plot revolves around a girl named Liz (Birch) who is found bloody and screaming and taken to the hospital, where she says that she and some of her friends had a third party, this guy named Martyn (Daniel Brocklebank) lock them inside an old bunker for a weekend to party and get away from their oppressive totalitarian boarding school. However things got a little too wacky and then somehow, all of them ended up dead. The only problem is that Liz can’t remember what happened. Martyn says he wasn’t even involved…so what really happened? The movie will throw you for several loops along the way to finding out.

Mostly the problems with this movie are that the characters themselves are pretty boring. They’re decently acted, but their personalities suck and they aren’t really given enough depth for you to be totally drawn into the story. The reason you keep watching is because the plot itself is interesting – although even that’s a little sketchy, honestly. They really couldn’t find a better place to sneak off and hide than an ABANDONED BUNKER? Bunch of morons. I don’t have too much sympathy for ‘em.

But mostly the plot is pretty hooky, once it gets rolling. It takes a little while to get started, and initially it’s a bit confusing, but by the end I found myself interested. Another thing this does well is that it is sufficiently bloody and sick – but not overly so, never gratuitously. It’s just right. The film provides some honestly disturbing scenes near the end that will stick with you. The atmosphere is creepy and depraved, and when the violent stuff starts happening, you know the movie means it, because it has waited this long to show them to you, patiently.

So overall I liked The Hole. It’s original – fairly – and does what it sets out to do. The writing could have been more cohesive, but if you go in with an open mind I think you’ll like it. Just don’t lock the door. You don’t want to get trapped in this film’s odd little world.

None of the pics are mine...and DISCLAIMER, I have nothing against the British.

REVIEW: Field of Dreams (1989)

Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Starring: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta, Amy Madigan

"This is my most special place in the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again."
-Moonlight Graham

Kevin Costner is a farmer who hates farming, but gets a voice in his head that tells him some rather cryptic lines of almost prophetic nature that lead him to believe that he should turn his corn field into a giant baseball diamond so that the ghosts of Ray Liotta and a host of other old baseball stars all come back and re-live their dreams. Crazy enough for you yet?

Field of Dreams is fluff. It’s very enjoyable, creative fluff, however sentimental and sappy it might be. I really found myself drawn into its creative energy and the youthful, biting zeal at which it tore into its subject matter. Basically the story is that Costner keeps getting these voices in his head that tell him things he needs to do, although they’re all delivered in very cryptic manners and seemingly have nothing to do with each other. What’s the big picture? How will everything fit together? These are questions you will invariably have during a first viewing, and the fact that the film makes you ask them is one of its strong points. There is intrigue and mystery around every corner, of a very unique nature. There has never been a movie plot quite like this before. The freshness makes it all the more exciting.

Costner as the lead does a fairly good job, and he’s plenty likable and has a fair amount of depth and realism to his character, like the plot thread involving his father. There is one moment where he finally gets angry at the pre-set plan for everything going on, and I found that refreshing, as it showed his humanity quite nakedly. But like a lot of movies, the best characters are the side characters who add a lot more color and spunk to the whole thing. Ray Liotta does a good job as Shoeless Joe Jackson, the, ahem, spiritually inclined 1920s baseball legend back from his grave to play again, but he isn’t given as much screen time as I would have liked. Really my favorite characters here are James Earl Jones as Terrence Mann and Amy Madigan as Costner’s wife Annie, both of whom just really went at their performances with huge amounts of awesome energy.

The plot at first is fast paced and exciting. The whole first half of the movie is pretty much a big adventure as we see Costner build the baseball field and then embark on a statewide journey to find connected people who the voices tell him to find. There’s a real sense of adventure and boldness here that I really like. It just feels so free-spirited and fun, and that’s one thing in a movie I will never tire of. The scenes where he and James Earl Jones first meet are just pure cinematic ecstasy, as the two have excellent screen chemistry and play off each other masterfully. And then the scenes in Michigan with the old doctor character are also very well done, although I thought they could have been longer.

And that’s one of my complaints with the end, as it just felt a bit too rushed at times, like they had another 20 minutes of film they could have done if they had time, but just came up short in that area. The end is pretty decent, and contains some good scenes, but overall I felt a bit short-changed. They definitely could have done a little more to tie up the enthusiastic threads they had already established.

So overall Field of Dreams was good. It’s a fun, lighthearted flick for everyone who needs a little light in their life, shining through the darkness. Idealistic, creative and addictive.

Friday, June 24, 2011

REVIEW: Them (2006)

This should be called “Patience: The Movie.” Because you just keep waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and waiting…and waiting…

Director: David Moreau, Xavier Palud
Starring: Olivia Bonamy, Michael Cohen

So apparently this movie was well liked internationally, according to the Wikipedia page, and has a fairly positive score on Rotten Tomatoes. And to that I say, DID ANY OF YOU IDIOTS EVEN WATCH THIS CRAP?! This is wretched, banal and vapid to extremes I haven’t seen in a while. It’s completely directionless, there’s no suspense, the characters suck and the twist is laughable. There, review over.

…no, I can’t just leave it at that; that wouldn’t be a convincing enough warning. Sigh. I guess I’ll have to just go through this whole thing and prove it. Let’s get this bad movie circus started.

Our movie begins with two annoying characters in a car. The mother asks her daughter if she’d like to speak to her father, and the daughter, being a whiny, precocious teenager, gives her a hard time about it. Oh no, she has to SPEAK TO HER FATHER? Call the frigging presses, it’s a tragedy on par with the Titanic. Seriously, nice way to make sure we don’t give a crap from the start about these two. Not to mention their acting is terrible, too. The car breaks down, the mother goes out to try and jump start the engine, and she disappears…the daughter, being a super genius, decides to step outside and start calling her mom’s name incessantly, thinking that MAYBE the fiftieth time she calls, her mom will respond. She gets back in the car and gets strangled, because of course there’s NO WAY she could have heard the car door opening!

"Help! I'm being attacked by implausibility!"

The next day we see a teacher…teaching. Yeah, uh, OK then.

"Today we will be learning about horrible acting and unrealistic plot development. Take out your books and turn to page 50."

She goes home and passes by the opening-kill car, which serves to establish what we already know – oooooh, whatever happened to them is going to happen to her! She goes home to her boyfriend, who is a writer, who says he’s always doing his job, even in his head. Well I’m glad someone is, because whoever wrote this sure isn’t…and why is this important? Open the Plot Fortune Cookie and find out!

Seriously; it has no bearing on the plot and is never brought up again. This movie fails again!

Then we get a bunch of scenes of the two of them playing around and doing couple things; la-dee-da, I’m sure NOTHING bad will happen here! Actually the scenes of him chasing her through the halls could have easily been altered to be much, much scarier than any of the actual horror scenes in this movie. They talk about random stuff, and I mostly just wonder why.

It isn't a good sign when even your actors would rather watch TV than further the plot...

And do we REALLY need to see a scene of them sitting on the couch and watching TV? I mean really, would the movie have suffered if you cut it out? Are you that bankrupt of ideas? At one point the guy even turns off the TV and says he doesn’t need to watch this crap. Ironic considering the movie he’s in…but seriously, we’re almost halfway into the movie at this point. This is only a 70 something minute movie. It shouldn't be that hard to fill up with suspense and things happening, but we're around a half hour in and NOTHING has really happened to advance the plot! That's got to be a new record for worthlessness.

So then they’re sleeping at night when the woman hears a noise outside. A NOISE! OH NO! The guy goes outside and finds that someone is in the car and has TURNED THE LIGHTS ON! Oh the humanity! The lights go out, like in every really bad horror movie, and they turn the TV on too? What fiends these guys are!

The TV is the best actor in the movie and shows the most emotional range by far.

So these two get…really overly terrified at what’s happening despite the fact that they haven’t seen anything yet and that since it’s THEIR HOUSE they should know where SOMETHING is that could help them – a flashlight? Something they could use as a weapon? ANYTHING? But nope, because these people are morons, the plot must go on. The guy gets hurt when a broken glass door slams into his leg and they both end up hiding in their bedroom like cowards. Which would be a brilliant thing to do if you wanted to entrap yourself up there and let your attackers surround you.

Then the woman goes up into the attic, and since this is a horror movie, the whole attic is covered in transparent drapes that make it look like one of Dexter’s kill rooms or something.

"Do you mind?"

The attackers are up there, too, but they wait until it’s dramatically convenient to attack, giving her time to possibly formulate a plan – I’m glad these attackers are so fair. Then one of them is just sort of standing there ominously, because THAT’S a smart thing to do! I’m sure the main character won’t ever think of just pushing him off the balcony he’s standing on…oh, wait.

Whoopsy daisy!

Then she and her husband go for a pleasant nighttime jog in the woods until they come to a fence. The guy can’t get over it because of his leg wound. He tells his wife to run by herself, and being a stupid and selfish character, she goes ahead and does it. I laugh at this scene because all I can picture is what the husband is really thinking: “No, wait! I just said that to look noble! Don’t leave me here, you whore! COME BACK!”

And then we see even more of our main heroine’s intelligence as she finds a car and gets inside, even as the attackers surround her. It’s not like she could just open the doors and make a break for it, right? That would just be silly.

Then we cut to the husband, who somehow got over his fence problem (and whose injury is only debilitating when the plot requires it to be) and pursues the attackers by listening to the nice soundtrack of his wife’s screams. He finds a secret cavernous entrance to the sewers, I guess, which looks more like a place Jigsaw from the SAW movies would love to hang out. There he finds a bunch of little kids committing the horrendous act of MAKING HIS WIFE SMELL SOMETHING IN A BAG! Really, that’s what it looks like. The picture quality is too murky to determine anything else, so…yeah.

But seriously, a bunch of little kids? That’s your big scare of the movie? “Won’t you play with us?” is the movie’s chosen scary line for them to say, and it’s even sillier that way. Oh no, they’re going to make us play hide and seek with them! In fact that’s really all this movie is. A big, stupid, incredibly boring game of hide and seek.

So anyway, one of the kids, a younger one, tells the older one to stop torturing the woman. But before any character development can happen, the husband says NO and just kills the older kid, saving his wife. But then they hear the sounds of the other kids coming in! The little kid tells them to follow him, and since they’re morons, they agree. To be fair, he was trying to get his buddy to stop torturing the woman, but still, are you telling me they couldn’t just go back toward the entrance and face the kids head on? That these two GROWN ADULTS can’t take a bunch of whiny little brats who probably should have been beaten more by their probably neglectful parents? Get real!

And then when they’re trying to escape, the kid suddenly betrays them anyway! Then why was he telling the kid to stop torturing her earlier? And for that matter, what’s the logic in acting like he’s going to help them escape when the other kids are right outside, when he could have easily just let them get captured in the first place and saved us all 5 minutes of this excruciating excrement? This movie has less logic than…a dog driving a car!

Well, that 2 minutes was far more entertaining than the movie itself, but since I still have to finish this review...

The film ends with both of them dead and the kids all getting on a bus to go and ruin more good cinema. Oh what a joyous rape of the senses…I hope that bus burns.

All aboard the bus to cliche horror ending-ville! Tickets are free except we do want your dignity and brain cells. Those are kind of in short supply where movies like this are made.

This was awful! There’s nothing entertaining or suspenseful about this at all. This had a cool set up, with the cover art and the nice, desolate setting, but man oh man did they waste all of that. The amount of sheer nothing contained in Them is enough to fill a football field. If you like movies that are actually about something, that contain any modicum of wit or style to their proceedings or that have any inch of atmosphere to them, avoid this like the plague. To sum up in short: little kids are evil and can easily overpower grown adults with nothing else but their bare hands and the cover of night. Yup, that’s about the size of it. What a joke.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

REVIEW: 5ive Girls (2006)

Director: Warren P. Sonoda
Starring: Ron Perlman, Jennifer Miller

You know, if there was ever a movie that automatically disqualified you from intelligent discussion just by the mere mention of the title alone…this would be it. I mean, what were they thinking? The title basically comes out to say ‘Five-ive Girls.’ What on Earth does that mean? Was it made up by someone who got dropped on his or her head as a kid? If a movie can’t even get basic sentence structure right, then how can I expect it to get anything else right? Fortunately I expected nothing, and that’s what I got.

I mean it; this is scum of the lowest level. I don’t want to think about this. I don’t want to acknowledge it. I don’t want to grace this stupidity, this idiocy, with my time. It’s not worth it. This movie is so bad that I can’t even sum up how bad it is. It just…needs to be witnessed to be believed. And since I wouldn’t suggest actually WATCHING this pile of heinousness, I have prepared this review for your benefit. Isn’t that nice of me? Well, I hope you think so, because MAN was this tripe hard to sit through.

Our three ring circus of a movie starts with a hot blonde in a little schoolgirl’s outfit – can you say fetish fuel? Because this movie can – drawing a picture for a class assignment that I think most 4th graders would find too insultingly simple. Seriously, her assignment is to draw a picture of a Biblical event? Hello, Sunday School! But it’s OK, because her priest is played by Ron Perlman.

There we go!

They exchange some pointless dialogue, and then she gets killed by a mysterious demonic force. Will this be explained in the movie? If you think so, then you’re in for a much more devastating ride in this movie than I was.

Then we cut to five years later, where we see a disgruntled father driving his daughter to the same school, which has only recently been reopened after the event. The girl, named Alex, argues with her father because she doesn’t want to be in this movie – a wise decision – but he gets out and physically forces her to go in, driving off with little more than a cursory goodbye. Great parenting there, guy. Almost Casey Anthony level there. And no, the movie never really explains why she’s so bad that she had to be sent off to a place like this, either. I guess they couldn’t think of a reason.

"I really can't wait to get out of this movie, so get your ass up to that school and subject yourself to demonic possession, young lady!"

So then we see that the school is so prestigious that they lock it up with chains even in the daytime. I guess that’s because nobody would ever want to leave, right?

OK, OK, wishful thinking. But since literally the WHOLE REST OF THE MOVIE takes place inside this damn building, you can’t really blame me. I’m fine with these kinds of closed-room movies when they’re done well, but the problem with this movie is that the setting is just SO DRAB and uninteresting that it becomes completely ineffectual, like they might as well have staged this movie in a blank white room. It’s really that dull of a setting.

Then we see the absolutely wonderful quality of the education here as the headmistress, Miss Pearce, pretty much abuses these girls for no real reason. Like this exchange:

Black Girl: I was just wondering where the phones were. I wanted to call my parents and let them know I arrived safely.

Miss Pearce: Your parents don’t want you. They do not care about you.

Geez! She asked to make a PHONE CALL. A phone call, for Pete’s sake! What are you, a fascist dictator? No, even fascist dictators would say that’s pretty harsh! I mean…sheesh, lady!

"You will BOW DOWN TO ME, for I am the queen of all things on Earth! Muahahaha!"

She makes them strip down to their underwear and gropes them all to “check for drugs,” although really it’s just an excuse for the girl-on-girl action that this movie will use as a crutch throughout the film to make up for the lack of any other substance. She forcefully jams needles into their arms to take blood samples, not bothering to, you know, make sure to get it lined up with their veins properly, or anything. Health? Who needs THAT in a Christian boarding school?

Then Alex says she has a ‘bleeding problem,’ and when Miss Pearce sticks her with the needle, her arm EXPLODES with blood all over the place and knocks some stuff over. This is probably a real disease, but it serves no purpose to the story and is never brought up again, so it’s mostly pointless. Oh, except to show us how horrible of a character Miss Pearce is! Sure makes me want to give her a black eye or two. I love how the first thing she says when it happens is to tell Alex not to curse out loud. And then “Oh, I guess we’ll have to take everyone’s blood all over again”…shut up! God, I can’t think of a worse character I’ve seen in a movie recently. She’s asinine! She’s atrocious! Literally every line she says makes me want to reach through the screen and smack her. She makes Bridget Fonda from Lake Placid look like a pleasant little housewife in comparison. This movie is turning me into a woman beater. SHAME ON YOU 5IVE GIRLS!

Ugh, so then we get to see what the girls all talk about when they’re alone. One girl says she’s a witch! But then later on she doesn’t even know what wiccanism is, despite having a book about the black arts and everything. She says that her interest in the dark arts isn’t something she wants to advertise, but it was established in that first scene that she was already open about it, and she even seemed proud of it. It’s never a good sign when your writers can’t even remember the scenes they wrote for 15 minutes earlier in the film. Did anyone proofread this?

Ha! Yeah right...

Then we find out that all the girls have special powers! One of them can phase through things, one can see into the future, and oh yeah, Alex is telekinetic! Forgot to bring THAT incredibly important plot element up earlier, didn’t you movie? I mean…wouldn’t that be one of the first things you’d like to know about a character? And even beyond that, where’s the logic in these powers anyway? Am I to assume this is just some MAGICAL world where people sometimes have supernatural powers and it’s just an everyday thing? What’s the back story? I’m not asking for this film to create a whole new intricate and detailed universe. I just can’t honestly sit here and swallow this half-cocked nonsense without questioning it. This is a movie that operates solely on the philosophy of ‘the only explanation you need for anything is that magic made it possible.’ And that’s as cheap a cop out as you can get in a movie. If you care about cinema or writing at all, this will piss you off too.

But anyway, the movie plods along doggedly and we see that despite the numerous instances of supernatural occurrences and ghostly happenings, Alex barely even bats an eye at any of it. There’s no tension built here. They act like the ghost stuff is just a small inconvenience, no more lethal than having someone tap you on the shoulder while you’re trying to concentrate.

There’s one scene where Alex is writing on the board and one of the ghosts writes something in Latin for her in big letters. She’s clearly not touching the board and is freaked out, but the laws of horrible filmmaking and lazy writing dictate that she gets in trouble for this. She’s sent out to the hall to transcribe some Latin pages, but gets distracted by a ghost and goes to explore some stuff. When she gets back, the pages have all been written for her again by the ghost! I guess it’s just one of those homework helper ghosts. My favorite kind. But what really gets me is when Miss Pearce says that the Latin, which is super detailed and correct, is probably a prank. Yeah, that must be it…the movie is full of moments like this. I think it literally, actually made me stupider.

Like how about when two of the girls go up to the forbidden third floor and then Alex takes the blame for it when Miss Pearce interrogates them? She makes Alex bend over a desk, lifts up her skirt and spanks her with a ruler. I am dead serious. It’s like something you’d see in a 1920s-era elementary school or something and is totally ridiculous and silly. Then this other chick puts her hand on Alex’s ass and heals the spanking wounds instantly, revealing yet another contrived super-power and also dually giving more fanservice for the crowd. Wow, two birds with one stone! You go, movie.

"Here comes the mighty hammer of Christian justice!"

OK, so when the movie actually DOES try to have some semblance of a plot, we find out that the demon Legion is haunting the school and killed that girl from the opening – why? Because she was religious, and there are no other religious people in the world I guess. Miss Pearce is actually, conveniently, her sister, who is such a pious and good Christian that she wants to conduct an occult ritual, complete with silly pentagrams and blood dripping and everything, to ‘trade’ the five main characters to get her dead sister back. OK, well…whatever then.

Really, I don't see why I should care. It isn't like this magically makes the movie more interesting or anything...and what the hell is that thing? An oil spill survivor? One of the Mud People? WHAT?

Then we get this thing about how wicca-girl is possessed by Legion now because a little CGI worm crawled into her arm one night while she was sleeping. Now she’s got all kinds of cuts and bruises everywhere. During a urine exam (not sure why they’re doing it now as opposed to when they first got there, but OK), hers comes out a very questionable looking shade of murky brown. Yergh. And one night when they’re taking baths, she vomits all over one of the other girls and transfers the possession to her!

Yes, this movie contains female breast-groping, excessive bleeding from possibly un-sterilized needles, and now brown piss and vomiting. Truly a movie to play at your next gentlemen’s club meeting. Hell; just take it to your girlfriend’s for some lighthearted family fun. It’ll be the best movie night you ever had.

So, anyway, the new possessed girl goes and talks to Ron Perlman in a deep voice that sounds completely ridiculous when coming out of her feminine body. If this was going for comedy, maybe I’d buy it, but not in a supposedly serious horror. Then she kills him, making his entire existence in this movie completely pointless. He didn’t even do anything, when you think about it, so why? Miss Pearce could have easily run this whole operation alone. But who am I kidding? Asking for logic now is like eating 3/4s of a Big Mac and then deciding you don’t want the cholesterol.

Goodnight sweet prince. May you star in a hundred more Dark Countries and Hellboy 2's before this kind of slop again...

The blind chick gets it next, while Alex and the other surviving girl run into Miss Pearce. She breaks the healer girl’s hand, which is apparently the only hand she can actually use her power with. Well that’s weird. Who ever heard of a healing power that’s only in one hand? I think this chick got the short end of the stick from the special powers gene pool, or whatever you want to call it.

Then Alex and the healer girl make a circle on the ground that will keep out demonic forces, because derp-dee-doo, magic is just everyday knowledge in this crazy world! Gotta love it! Oh, and they have a lesbian make out scene, because otherwise NOBODY would give a crap about this heinous pile of nothing! And two girls making out is SO HAWT even though there was nothing in the movie before this to indicate that they would do it. But hey, who needs standards? Anything’s fair when you’re appealing to the nerdy Internet-dwelling teenage population!

It's like Harry Potter...the delinquent lesbian white girl version. Isn't that what every Harry Potter fan secretly always wanted?
Yay, lesbians! NOW the movie doesn't suck...right? Right?!

Ugh. Then the other girl gets possessed, and the movie rips off Buffy’s season 3 moment by having the whole “You want this knife? You can have it BACK!” scene done almost word for word. Yeah, real original there. They both get knocked out, and then healer-girl wakes up and tries to heal Alex, but fails. The sister comes back to life, and we find out that her father is really the weird old caretaker guy who had maybe 3 minutes of total screentime in the entire movie. WHAT AN IMPORTANT REVELATION! Then Alex turns into Legion (I guess her transformation was delayed for plot convenience) and kills them all. The end!

I really hope everyone involved with this feels remorseful about it, because this was just horrible! Terrible! There’s really nothing interesting or even slightly dignified about it – it’s purely artless trash from beginning to end. It’s just so completely toothless and robbed of any kind of tension. Then it tries to go for the fanservice thing with the lesbianism, but that doesn’t work either, because it’s just so hard to actually buy it. Everything this movie does it botches up. It’s boring, it’s stupid; it’s all around crap on every level. There’s a reason you saw a billion copies of this sitting on the shelves at Blockbuster with nobody renting them. Keep it that way from now on!

Monday, June 13, 2011

REVIEW: Law Abiding Citizen (2009)

Director: F. Gary Gray
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jamie Foxx

What is it with Gerard Butler and doing really poor attempts at social commentaries? First he did the abominable Gamer and now this one. Granted, this is a notch more watchable than Gamer, but it’s still nothing to fawn over, and in fact I’d say I didn’t much like it at all.

The story is about this guy whose wife and daughter are murdered by two guys. When the justice system fails to apprehend them as well as Butler wants, he spends ten years concocting a revenge plan against everyone involved, including his old pal Nick (Jamie Foxx). Butler commits horrendous acts against innocent people in a very hammy, clumsy attempt at making some sort of statement about the justice system…and that’s really all there is to it.

Mostly this movie is just dumb. I could excuse the extreme levels of implausibility at hand if the movie was likeable and smart in other areas, but it’s not. It’s basically just another SAW movie. I didn’t like Gerard Butler’s character because he was a crazy psychopath with no human qualities at all (oh, wait, I forgot about his daughter’s little ring of beads…well, like I said, no human qualities at all). I didn’t like Jamie Foxx because he was a cardboard cutout sometimes and a coldhearted dimwit who couldn’t do his job right the next. There’s basically nothing likeable about this movie. So what are we left with?

GORE! LOTS AND LOTS OF GORE! AND DEATH! Butler sets up ridiculous SAW/Hostel-lite traps, makes “profound” speeches about how smart he is and how much the justice system sucks, and Jamie Foxx incompetently tries to stop him while neglecting his family over and over. There, you don’t even have to watch this movie now; that’s all there is to it.

What really pisses me off though, even more than the fact that this is clearly trying to make some kind of statement about the judicial system in America. There’s one part, where Butler stands up in court and verbally schools the judge on why she’s wrong, that did point out some good things that the film could have elaborated on, but most of the time it isn’t like that. Gerard Butler is not making a statement about how much our judicial system is flawed. He is just killing people. There’s no meaning to any of it, and if you think there is, I advise you to go watch Se7en and see what a real meaningful, intelligent thriller is like. This is just crap. It’s got no subtlety, no grace and nothing about it that’s really likeable or interesting beyond the KUH-RAZY PLOT TWISTS MAN! Ugh.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

REVIEW: Super 8 (2011)

OK guys, this is it. This is the SUMMER BLOCKBUSTER WE HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR! The messiah of big, explosive action movies! Truly a great piece of cinema that I am very honored to be reviewing here today.

Director: JJ Abrams
Starring: Joel Courtney, Elle Fanning, Kyle Chandler

So this is the new J.J. Abrams movie, and I will be talking it up to anyone who will listen for the next few weeks. Super 8 is a movie that could have easily been released 15-20 years ago and have been great then, too. It’s in that ambiguous mutt of genre classification that combines action, romance and suspense, all in well-doled-out amounts, to create a new sort of genre that I will call simply “summer blockbuster.” And in that regard, this is just straight up awesome. This is the kind of Kick-Ass or Dark Knight level of excellence that I really just love. It’s just pure cinematic ecstasy.

But I guess I do have to actually talk about this movie, so here goes. This is basically a story about a bunch of kids in the late 70s who are filming a movie and accidentally get wrapped up in a huge government conspiracy, which results naturally in ALL OUT WAR! That sounded decent enough, and I expected this to be decent, maybe stretching into ‘good’ territory at best – I was wrong. This did have what I expected in terms of material and themes and whatnot, but it took them to a level that went far beyond those expectations, which surprised me. The plot felt fresh, the characters were a lot of fun and everything that happened was carried out with a real honest zeal.

Like this plot thread about the main kid’s mother being dead – haven’t we seen that a hundred times already? Yes, but Super 8 manages to make us care anyway. Through the strengths of the actors and the writing it invests you wholly in what’s going on. There’s one scene in particular with Joel Courtney’s and Elle Fanning’s characters in the middle of the movie that just floored me. I don’t want to spoil it, though. And this was Joel Courtney’s first film? Really awesome job for such a young actor!

Just the ways the characters interact in general is really well done. They feel like real kids. Their families feel like real families. Sure, sometimes there are moments where they seem to be a little too mature for their ages, but even that’s pretty hazy; it’s never flat-out unbelievable or anything. Everyone just did a great job with this, making it one hell of a memorable film. One character, at the beginning, is talking about making a movie, and says something like “You have to make the audience want these characters to live,” and the film does spectacular on that front. The parts in the beginning where they’re making the movie are almost as joyous as the more heavy-duty action you get later, if not moreso at times.

So, yeah, wasn’t there an ALL OUT WAR in this movie too? Yes, and it’s presented with a bombast and grandeur to it that I rarely see in most of these kinds of movies. You have your usual build-up and military invasion and what not, and it all looks really standard from the get go…but surprisingly I found myself actually feeling pretty threatened by these guys. They felt like real villains. It wasn’t like in Thor where their being there was played off as some kind of silly, trivial inconvenience – in Super 8 you know some serious trouble’s going down, and while of course the plot is pretty nonsensical and off-the-wall, it will have you hooked anyway.

By the end it pretty much evolves into a full-scale epic. There’s one scene where the kids are running through their formerly quiet suburb with all sorts of flames, gunshots, laser beams, grenades and general chaos going on all around them. It’s just wild, wild stuff, and is extremely gratifying to watch – isn’t this why you come to the movies? To see stuff as big and grand as this? This film takes me back to a time when I wasn’t disillusioned to this kind of grandiosity due to horrible writing and years of plastic-fake movies…but then, this is a good movie on any standard.

So yeah, Super 8 rocks. It’s one of those movies that just reminds me why I like going to the movies. It’s filled with youthful wonder and a healthy sense of adventure. The characters are so good that you’ll feel like you’re right there with them. The story is very well told in every aspect. J.J. Abrams has been quoted as saying that he wanted to take us back to a time when movies didn’t have everything about them revealed before it was even released – to enhance the surprise when actually going into the theater. And I think that worked really well here, because I had no idea what this was about, and each new plot twist kept me hooked. Super 8 is the best movie of the year so far and if you don’t see it, you’re missing out big time.