Sunday, January 29, 2012

REVIEW: 50/50 (2011)

Cancer is not a light subject and not one that many mainstream movies get made about. When they do, it’s usually within the frame of a very heavy drama, with little room for anything else, and that is where 50/50 comes in to demolish those expectations. This is a very wholesome film that answers the question I was wondering ever since I saw the trailer: “How can you inject comedy into a movie about a guy getting cancer?” Well, 50/50 did that with a splendid turn out.

Director: Jonathan Levine
Starring: Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick

Joseph Gordon Levitt is a great young actor and this film shows why – he’s able to fit himself into a role and cloak himself in it to where you don’t really think of him as an actor. In his best movies like Mysterious Skin, he fully becomes the character. He doesn’t try too hard to showboat or win any Oscars, he just puts out consistently excellent performances, no bells and whistles, no gimmicks. He’s awesome. Seth Rogen, famous for God knows how many trashy comedy movies over the last few years, pretty much does what you would expect of him here – silly, boisterous and loud – but the character is well written and nuanced to where he’s actually fairly compelling by the end. Anna Kendrick, of Up in the Air fame, puts on a great performance too as Levitt’s therapist. She is soft and feminine and kind of awkward, but she has a good spirit and a spunky sort of beat to her personality.

The movie kicks into gear relatively quickly with Levitt getting the big news that he has cancer. The film likes to straddle a line between comedy and drama, with a very serious scene here and there and others more speckled with jokes and wry witticisms. Levitt’s comedic timing comes from his stoic, deadpan delivery – what else would you expect from a guy who has cancer? He’s matched pretty brilliantly by Rogen’s brazenness.

Overall, 50/50 is a fairly simple and straightforward tale. It’s the story of a young man who gets cancer and has to face the painful road ahead to recovery. The strongest moments in the film are hard to pick out because it’s a whole movie of strong moments. The strength of the whole is its characters, and the way they interact with one another. Levitt’s interactions with Rogen are a big highlight of the movie, as they’re funny and also insightful into both characters’ finer points. Levitt talks to his mother and girlfriend a fair few times in the film – one of those relationships tanks and the other one ends up flourishing and stronger than ever, and the juxtaposition shows how versatile the actors and directors are. He talks to his therapist (Kendrick) quite often too. I have to admit Kendrick’s storyline does feel a little rushed in comparison to some of the others, but it’s a minor complaint at best.

We learn about all the characters through conversation and as the film unfolds, we see a broad, spirited picture of human tragedy. The human condition is never limited strictly to the person directly inflicted by some terrible ailment; it also affects those around him or her too, and part of what this movie tells us is that it’s not necessarily morally reprehensible to show that you’re just as grief-stricken as the person who is sick to begin with. People always say that nothing anyone is feeling about a loved one’s sickness or ailment can compare with what the person is feeling him- or herself, and that is true to some extent, but everyone is affected a little bit and has to deal with it just the same. There is no hierarchy of grieving and distress. Some people deal with the pain and suffering of their loved ones in good ways, and others do not – such is the way of life and human error.

The reasons why 50/50 is a great film are plentiful – the acting, the directing, the pacing – but overall the film is more than the sum of its parts. It is a tale of laughing and crying, of the ways we interact with those around us – for we are never just individual souls cut off from the world, we are all interconnected. 50/50 is the story of those connections and how they come together in the face of possible death. This is an honest movie about people doing what they can.

All images copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.

REVIEW: The Game (1997)


David Fincher has done better works than this movie, but The Game is interesting and remarkable for reasons outside of the usual fantastic cinematography and acting, namely the way it plays with the viewer’s expectations and the whole general idea of storytelling. This is at once a serious film and a bit of a farce, dually a suspenseful thrill ride and perhaps the greatest attempt at pulling the wool over the eyes of the audience I’ve ever seen. But it’s one thing to tell you that, and quite another to actually explain myself, so let’s go ahead and do that.

Director: David Fincher
Starring: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn

The Game’s basic premise is that Michael Douglas plays a rich billionaire named Nicholas Van Orton who gets a present from his derelict brother, inviting him to participate in a ‘game’ with a strange company called CRS. The film quickly turns into a high speed paranoid thriller in which Orton and a young, mysterious woman named Christine (or is that her real name at all?) embark on a wild ride of conspiracies, betrayals and twists that build up like a rising wave.

The film’s pace is fast and fluid, moving seamlessly from one thrill to the next, and as such, its 2+ hour runtime flies by like nothing. What I like about this movie on the surface is that it feels like a descent into madness, slowly becoming more and more alarming and surreal as it goes on until the electrifying climax. This is a very tense movie that never lets up, and for that it’s addictive.

As it goes on, we see Nicholas thrown into a bay in a speeding, out of control taxi. We see him in one particularly chilling scene stranded with nothing in the desert wastelands around Mexico, reduced to a beggar, without any of his riches or charm. These scenes are beautifully shot and add to the diversity of the film, pulling the viewer in and making him or her take notice.

At this point, the Mexican detour, the movie is unquestionably bleak and looks to be a commentary on the follies of the rich, and how they can be brought down to the level of the paupers they ignore. Right? Not exactly. After Nicholas gets back to the city, he tracks down the people who put him in the ‘game’ and puts them at gunpoint, especially the traitorous Christine, who suddenly gets very hesitant and jumpy…

The plot twist is finally revealed – the whole thing has been a huge set-up for Nicholas’s birthday party! Nothing that has happened is real at all, or at the very least, is dangerous at all. The entire movie has basically been a big joke. This is not a comedic film, nor has it given you any real context or set-up for what it does at the ending, so really it becomes an incredibly bizarre film that plays with its audience like nothing else I’ve ever seen. It becomes funny by virtue of being so out-of-left-field, so surreal. The whole film was previously set up on nail-biting suspense and outrageous tension – until the ending reveals it all to be a big farce. This is really a brilliant way to take the piss out of the audience’s expectations. I can understand why some people hate it, but really it’s great by virtue of just coming out of nowhere! This is an ending nobody would ever expect, and for that it is genius. Wry, tongue-in-cheek, whimsical genius, yes, but genius all the same. Hats off to Fincher for another winner of a movie.

All images copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.

REVIEW: Puppet Master (1989)

So apparently enough people actually enjoyed this movie enough to make a franchise about it…well, I’ve heard stupider things on this blog alone, so I guess I can’t be too surprised. But I mean honestly, THIS CRAP merited sequels??!?!

Whoops. Spoke too soon.

Director: David Schmoeller
Starring: Paul Le Mat, Irene Miracle

Yes, the infamous Puppet Master movies, and this is the big fat nucleus that started them all. Is it good? Nope. I could end the review right there actually, but hey, that wouldn’t get me any new readers. So I guess I’ll have to do the whole thing where I actually talk about the movie. As much as I don’t want to.

We start off with the opening credits which look like the rectal thermometer of many an art student’s portfolios. Or maybe just something Picasso would have painted on a bad day. A really, really bad day. Then we get some fake looking rocks and waves in more lighting that looks like it was taken from the early 60s color films, and that’s pretty much what we have to look forward to for this whole movie. Joy.

There’s this old man who apparently has a lot of fun making puppets that can inexplicably move on their own. Horrifying, or visionary and creative? I’m going with horrifying. We also see that one puppet runs around on his own outside and nobody notices or even questions it at all. How is that possible? Does everyone in this world have his or her neck just permanently tilted up so they can’t see this little thing? It’s not like he’s doing a particularly good job of it, either…it’s broad daylight and he’s running around in an open field.

Only one person notices him the entire time he's running around...either everyone in this world is really dumb or the director of the movie just is. I think I like the latter a little more.

And look at that thing! That’s so stupid I could make something better looking in 10 minutes with Play Doh. What is that; the animated feces of V for Vendetta?

So it’s revealed that these Nazi guys are coming for the old man, who starts to hide all of his puppets inside a safe. So what, the Nazis are after the puppets now? I know they have some sort of vague magical property to them, but seriously, don’t they have anything better to be doing with their time? I’m just not sure this is historically accurate. What was Hitler thinking at the time?

"But sir..."

So then we flash forward to the present day when we see one of the actors who is really really interested in what’s going on in this movie!

Get it? I was being sarcastic! But seriously, if the first we see of your character is him sleeping at his work place...not exactly the best way to get us excited about his adventures.

He has a dream that he has leeches on his stomach, wakes up, aaaaand that’s the end of that scene. Then we get some other scene with some psychic at a fair telling some people they’ll get married someday when she actually has a real vision – one of her getting attacked in a hallway somewhere. Apparently all of the main characters in this movie have some kind of psychic powers…or something. And they have nothing better to do with these powers but go play shitty games of Clue in mansions the filmmakers obviously didn’t have enough money to buy.

Seriously, this is like The Shining if it had puppets, which really doesn’t sound like a good idea to me. They wander around and exchange lifeless dialogue like they’re high on meth, which I guess you’d have to be to accept a script with THIS THING in it:

Well, I think that speaks for itself. What was it doing in the coffin with him again?

Yeah, apparently this dead guy had it in his will or whatever that all of these people come to the house after he died to, uh, socialize I guess…because that’s not weird…okay, I can’t pretend I’m interested in the flimsy plot; WHAT IS THAT THING? Why is the head so small? Did they just have so little money that they couldn’t buy enough clay to sculpt a bigger head? What the hell?! This movie is driving me crazy!

So yeah, then that carnival-psychic hack lady jams a pin into the dead body to make sure he isn’t really just faking his death – such good friends these idiots are; I’m so impressed! But hey, at least we have this moron making the same confused, directionless face over and over again in every single shot, because you know it’s real hard to direct your actors in a way that actually makes them look at all credible, right? You bunch of hacks.

I'm serious; this guy NEVER changes his expression through the whole movie. I'm pretty sure he was high on something the whole time.

But that’s not even the most warped, crack-addled thing in this movie; oh no. We still have this to contend with:


I…I just can’t…I can’t do this. You know, I’m tired. I’m real tired of stupid movies doing stupid things and not having any logic behind it…I mean, what is that? Who came up with that image? Who woke up in the morning, thought of that and was actually proud enough to write it down in a movie script? This is the epitome of asinine! It’s so stupid I can’t stand it! You could find more quality in a box of fungus samples. Is this really the kind of thing that got successful back in the late 80s? I mean it’s a PUPPET VOMITING LEECHES. HOW IS THAT IN ANY WAY WORTH PUTTING ON SCREEN? I…you…GAH!

Alright, alright, let’s just get this over with…so I guess that retard who apparently can’t change his facial expression gets woken up by the ex-girlfriend of the suicide guy who invited them all there. She drags him up to the attic or whatever while explaining to him that the puppets were re-animated by Egyptian black magic. Okay. Then they get up to the attic where there’s nothing but white space and a bad Phantom of the Opera rip-off that actually turns out to be…the dead friend who they came there to mourn over in the first place! BOM BOM BOM…that was supposed to be a dramatic sound effect…

Wow, I've never been so underwhelmed since...well, the last five minutes of this movie...

So yeah, he kills her, but then it turns out it was all a dream and silly-face guy wakes up in bed and finds some severed heads in his bed talking to him, because yeah, he’s perfectly sane.

And you thought The Godfather was harsh when they had one horse head in the guy's bed? Well Puppet Master just SHOWED THAT MOVIE WHAT'S WHAT.

Then we see exactly how starved for ideas this movie really is when it repeats VERBATUM the exact same scene from before where the ex-girlfriend wakes this guy up and makes him come with her upstairs – they seriously have the same conversation and everything, and being an idiot, the guy doesn’t try to stop her or anything either. Yeah, because helping someone not get killed would be a terrible idea! Is this really the best use of his psychic dream powers? He’s just gonna sit around and do nothing when he gets his visions? What an asshole.

So of course there isn’t REALLY a phantom of the opera wannabe up there; that would be too unrealistic, even for a movie that has walking murderous puppets everywhere. They go downstairs and find their dead friends seated around the dinner table!

What a surprise! We weren’t even prepared for company tonight, and now we find our favorite corpses have come to visit. I hope they’re all comfortable and treated perfectly well, and that life has done them kindness. Wait, what was I talking about here?

Anyway, crazy rich guy comes back to life and explains that although he committed suicide, he used magical powers to come back and be immortal forever. Does this sound like a hack work plot written by monkeys yet? Don’t look at me…I thought it was from the beginning of the movie. And he also turns on the puppets, because he doesn’t need them now that he’s fully immortal, I guess! You know, this whole movie could have easily been written without the puppets and it would have actually been a morsel more interesting…but hey, who am I to judge; here’s some pictures of a guy in a tuxedo fighting little puppets:

At times like this, I'm very sad for the mother and father of whoever green-lighted images like this. It's like, this is what all your hard work and child raising skills have amounted to. Are you proud, mom and dad?

So they kill the rich immortal guy and the movie ends…and thank God, because I couldn’t take any more of this crap. Puppet Master is the lowest of the low, the absolute in mediocrity. I haven't seen a more flat-out obnoxious, annoying, grating-on-my-last-nerve movie in a while. Everything about this thing is just painful in how banal and ridiculous it is; there's no quality to be found. The acting sucks, the directing sucks, the story sucks, it just all sucks - but hey, what else am I to expect from the same production company that gave us THIS about ten years down the road?

I rest my case.

All images copyright of their original owners. I do not own any of them.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

REVIEW: 11/11/11 (Asylum version) (2011)

Of all the infamous institutions in the movie world, I haven’t looked at any Asylum films yet. For those of you blessedly uninformed up until now, The Asylum is a hack movie studio that makes money off of cheap direct to DVD knock-offs of movies that just came out in theaters. They’re slipped into just about every video store you can find and also even on Redbox and Netflix now, and the studio puts so little money into them that they’ll always gain money back on them in return, no matter how horrible the film does critically or commercially.

Pretty much all of their films are shoe-string budget versions of blockbusters that come out every year – ‘King of the Lost World’ for the 2005 King Kong remake, ‘Snakes on a Train’ instead of Snakes on a Plane; you get the idea. They’re called ‘tie ins’ by the producers, which I guess is a clever way of saying ‘we latch onto these actual good movies like leeches onto an unsuspecting cow’s belly.’ Despicable.

Given all of this devilry, would you be surprised if I said that the movie I’m reviewing today is among the lowest of lows a movie can ever achieve? I pay $7.99 for my Netflix every month and I want a refund for this! My eyes! They burn!

Director: Keith Adams
Starring: Jon Bridell, Erin Coker

And I didn’t even know this was an Asylum movie at first. I thought it was the real 11-11-11 picture by Darren Lynn Bousman, that idiot who directed the SAW sequels and stuff. But no! This is far worse! I especially like how the guy behind Asylum maintains seriously and honestly that his movies are “original stories.” Yeah, because changing the dashes to diagonal slashes really makes all the difference, right? I guess I’m missing the point of all the rip-offs of The Omen and Rosemary’s Baby this movie has, too. Truly this is the better, more original film over those moldy old films! YOU’RE SUCH A GENIUS, ASYLUM FILMS GUY. Let’s get this radioactive alligator crap over with before I have an aneurysm.

Okay, so the film starts out with three store mannequins driving along and exchanging dialogue I could write better in my sleep. They run over a cat, the dad says they’re on a great adventure…wow, I hate these bland, milquetoast characters already! The first scene and I’m already wishing I was getting a root canal instead of watching this. Wow. That’s an accomplishment.

Alright, check out that AWESOME lighting scheme! Isn't it just obnoxious as hell the way it makes everything look like an awful low-budget 1970s TV series? Yeah, get used to that. And yes, he thinks running over a cat in the street is a great adventure for them. I'd hate to hear what he thinks of witnessing a drive-by shooting, or going by a horrendous car accident...

They get to their new house, and apparently the dad is a new teacher at the school in town. They get shown around the place by the most awkward real estate lady ever, who is about as convincing as an actor as I would be trying to pretend I like this movie. There’s also this weird old lady who comes up looking for her cat – the same one they ran over before? I don’t know; if so, the mom and dad don’t try to tell her or anything…I guess they just like being cruel and unusual.

"FEEEEEEL MY OVERRRRAAAACTING...I will win the Oscar this year if it kills me!"

They meet a few other people, and there’s a very common thread in all of the interactions that this movie has: THEY’RE ALL AWKWARD AS HELL. I mean Jesus, what is up with these people? The acting is just phenomenally awful! It's never convincing, never emotional, never even the slightest bit believable. What is this, Awkwardtown, USA? In fact, that’s what I’m calling it for the rest of the movie.

So the family adjusts to life in their new home while the weird old lady tries un-subtly to lure the little boy Nat into her garage. Why do I get the idea she’s actually on the national sex-offender registry? And you’ll notice something about Nat as well – HE NEVER SAYS ANYTHING. This must have been the easiest acting job ever. What were his directions? “Hey, kid, just stand there with that blank, confused look on your face for the entire movie. It’s cool; you only have about three and a half lines total. Just keep that dazed stare on. That's good acting for real!” Poor kid.

He's like a wooden block. I'd also like to note that even when everything is going wrong and people are clearly bad influences on this kid, as well as his mother being sick and in bed all the time, it NEVER crosses the father's mind to send him to a friggin' public school! You're an idiot, 11/11/11 dad. You're an idiot.

Things really get interesting, though, when the wife is taking a bath later that night. Her husband calls her name a couple of times and she doesn’t respond. So he goes to bed, I guess? And then she sees the clock says 11:11, so she starts screaming and then finds out that she’s got blood in the bathtub!

Yay, blood in the bathtub! Perfect way to spend a night, right The Asylum guys?

Okay, okay, time out. So what, the husband was just going to go to bed even though his wife wasn’t responding when he called her name? Why wasn't she responding anyway? Are those walls just sound-proof? Apparently not, if he can hear her screaming just two seconds later! WTF? At least try to have your scenes make a LITTLE sense, you goddamn movie!

Anyway, they go to the doctor, who tells them that the wife is pregnant and thus has to lie down in bed for weeks and not do anything or else she’ll have a miscarriage. Yup, she can’t even do basic things like walk around unsupervised. The husband even buys into it – “Be careful, honey, you might have a miscarriage,” he says when she’s doing nothing more than just standing in their house, slightly agitated. You know, movie, I’m no expert on these things, but I’m pretty sure a miscarriage isn’t something that just happens at every slightest emotional moment. Just saying, you know – consider doing some research next time. It makes you look like you’re NOT a mouth-breathing mongoloid who makes trash cinema for a living.

So they plan to hire a nanny for Nat and a nurse to take care of the wife. For the nurse, they get a fat blonde lady, and for the nanny they interview a few different people. The first one is a nice, level-headed and sweet girl who pretty much fits everything one would want in a babysitter. So of course she gets beat up and murdered in broad daylight by this other chick, Danielle, right after.

So I guess the explanation for all these broad daylight murders is supposed to be that everyone in the town is in on it, and so they don't intervene. But what's the deal with this chick, then? Was she literally the only person in town aside from the main characters who wasn't corrupt and crazy? ANSWER ME, MOVIE!

The fight choreography is beyond abysmal, I've seen better from home-made movies my friends and I made when I was 10, and REALLY, broad daylight? You’re telling me NOBODY is gonna think this is even a LITTLE shocking? That is just…ugh. Moving on. Danielle interviews for the babysitter job, too, and not nearly as convincingly – you’d think someone trying to infiltrate the family would do a better job at acting nice at first, but hey, it’s an Asylum movie!

The father calls the first girl, but Danielle stole her phone and answers it, pretending to be the first girl, and says she doesn’t want the job. Two seconds later the father calls Danielle, who answers in almost the same voice, and yet he can’t tell there’s something weird going on. She doesn’t even try to disguise her voice! I guess it’s a good thing everyone in Awkwardtown, USA is incredibly retarded, huh?

"Oh, I was totally prepared for having to impersonate a dead girl I've never met...I had better not change my vocal inflection even a little bit. That way no one will ever suspect that it's me!" Wait, what?

One of the recurring themes in the movie seems to be that, in a vaguely Hot Fuzz-esque way, everyone in this town seems to be in on this really vague plot centering around Nat and his birthday on November 11. So we get a lot of really silly scenes where people randomly barge into their house and make stilted, unbelievable conversation, but one of my favorites is in the school actually, where one of the teachers is about to talk to the husband, when the janitor goes “Don’t screw this up.” I don’t know why, but I just find that funny for some reason…the JANITOR walking around picking up trash is the one who knows what’s up, the one bossing the teachers around. There’s something not quite right about that.

So then we get this completely nonsensical scene where this retard comes into their house and talks about how a bunch of people were murdered in the house, speaking in a very casual, unfitting tone of voice and looking like he was blackmailed to be in the movie. And, you guessed it, it’s incredibly awkward! Then he goes outside and gets killed brutally in the middle of the street. Yes, in broad daylight again. No, I don’t think the makers of this movie made it past the first couple of days of Kindergarten.

BROAD DAYLIGHT is the BEST time to commit murder, and especially in the middle of a happy suburban street! This movie is teaching me so much today!

The old lady tries unconvincingly to kill Nat some more. The father even yells at Nat not to talk to her, and she still tries anyway, because hey, what didn’t work the first five thousand times is still worth trying again! This whole character is just a mystery to me. This is really the best she can do to try to get that kid? Just…continuously begging him to come with her, over and over again, with no changes to her plan? She doesn’t have, oh I don’t know, ANY OTHER IDEAS? Imagine if the Roadrunner cartoons were this unimaginative. They wouldn’t be nearly as popular.

In the middle of the night, Nat faints on the floor after drawing with blood on the walls for some reason. Will it be explained? Nope! Too bad. You thought you were getting a story in this movie? What a laugh.

Yup, we're literally given zero explanation for why this is happening. Not even a mention of it anywhere.

So then we get…an overly long sequence of the father walking around at night while the camera zooms in on random objects like weird green piggy banks that I guess every suburban family has. Must have missed that trend!

Eugh. That's absolutely creepy. I wouldn't want to see this thing looking at me in the dark...

What do you think the idea behind this was? “Man, we really need to waste some more time and visually rape our audience some more! How about we just put in random, drawn out shots of goofy things that won’t make sense to anyone? Yeah, that’ll work. They’ll be so sleepy by the end of this scene, they’ll stay for the whole rest of the movie!”

My sentiments exactly.

My God this is torture! It’s like having acid poured over my brain! This whole pointless sequence seriously just keeps dragging on and on, like they physically want to hurt their viewers!

Okay, okay, it’s over…so, movie, pray tell. What’s next, a scene where the dad is driving home and sees all the bad guys through the windows of their van, in the middle of the day, on the side of an average suburban street, making up more conspiracies? No, even this movie wouldn’t be that stupid—

FGDSGFJSHG...*brain explodes*

HOLY HELL! What, was the side of that populated, normal street REALLY the best place for them to congregate? They couldn’t wait until nighttime to do it? Why am I even questioning this crap? Clearly it wasn’t written by anyone with the right amount of chromosomes! Ugh, screw it; moving on…

Nat, for no reason at all, stabs his mother as she’s lying immobile in bed still. Is he possessed? Is he trying to get rid of the baby inside her like in the Omen movies? No idea…it’s never explained. This whole plot is just weird. We have apparently two different groups trying to get their hands on this kid, one of whom is trying to kill him and the other trying to protect him, but neither one seems to have a reason, and it’s pretty lopsided, too – the side trying to kill him seems to just be the crazy old lady with no acting coach! What, did they just not have enough money to hire more actors to help her? I probably shouldn’t even joke about that, actually…it’s probably true.

"I WILL WIN AN OSCAAAAAAR! This is my last chance in the movie!"

So yeah, then we learn that although the mom was lying around drugged the entire movie before this, it’s getting stabbed that finally gives her the power to sit up straight again…nope, not gonna question it; I want to get this over with. Makes sense to me!

There’s some other stuff that happens, with some silly satanic ritual that’s more like something you’d see in a Scooby Doo cartoon or something. The father saves Nat from being killed by the old witch lady, only for Nat to go up and kill the mother…for some reason…and then the father kills the housekeeper and goes into the shed to kill his own son while the town cheers him on. The whole thing is played up in an Omen-esque fashion like killing Nat will save the world – but none of it is explained! So what am I supposed to gain from it? There was no story! This was an affront to all of my senses!

Yup, it ends with the main character being arrested, by possibly the slowest moving police officer ever - he seriously takes like a whole minute to put the handcuffs on this guy. Does he just have arthritis? And oh yeah, real peachy ending, too. What was I supposed to learn from this again?

Yeah, I didn’t like this one. I mean WOW, this was awful. I didn't even come close to covering everything wrong with this; I had to skip large sections of it just to condense this into a readable-length review for the site. There's a ton of other shit I didn't even mention that's wrong with this. Everything about it was horrendous; from the Z-list acting to the lighting which looked like it was out of a 1970s sitcom to the wretched formless mass that was the ‘story.’ Nothing worked! How did anyone ever look at this and feel any kind of pride? How does The Asylum look at any of their productions and feel anything but sickened self-loathing?

Personally, I find The Asylum’s approach to filmmaking to be incredibly insulting. Their professed intent to ‘tell stories’ (haha) doesn’t matter at all if what they're producing is so obviously lacking effort! If you’re not going to try a little, I think it’s safe to say your services are no longer of use to us, The Asylum. I declare this movie a complete abomination upon everything good about humankind and art! What a wretched piece of hack-work. Avoid, avoid, avoid!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Starring: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor
Director: Steven Spielberg

Well, I ended 2011 with a Steven Spielberg film, so I might as well begin 2012 with one as well. Regressive? Maybe. How about I review one that is a little different from "Warhorse"? How different you ask? Well...this one sucks.

First, a little back story. The film was originally going to be helmed by the great director Stanley Kubrick, but he sadly passed away before it could be adapted to the big screen. So Spielberg took on the project and cast Haley Joel Osment, still a big star after "The Sixth Sense," as the main lead. So what do you get? A mess...

This review will be a bit longer than what I usually post and there will be spoilers, prepared.

Based on the short story "Super-Toys Last All Summer Long" by Brian Aldiss, it takes place in the future where the ice caps have melted, the cities have flooded, and people are being attacked by terrible-constructed CGI mega sharks and giant octopuses. Well, maybe not. Anyway, a scientist played by William Hurt (I can find out his character's name, but I just don't feel like it) wants to create a boy robot which will feel unconditional love, leading to the ethical question: can people love them back? Well, let's find out shall we?!

The first third of this film is almost like the plot of a sci-fi horror movie. One of the roboboys is "adopted" by two parents (Frances O'Connor and Sam Robards) whose own son is in a seemingly terminal coma. The boy is named David: he is nice, does what he is told as creepy as hell! He follows his mom all over the place, including when she is using the toilet (hmm I was expecting the shower; touche, movie), all while wearing this blank expression on his face. There is also this really weird scene where he all the sudden burst out in forced laugher, causing the parents to laugh, before ending in awkward silence. Well...that's apparently enough for the mom to decide she is going to keep him! I personally would have had it sent right back to the factory, destroyed the little hell-spawn and made it into Bender from "Futurama," but to each their own!

"Hello, I'll be your pretentious, overly cute, child actor for this film."

Well, the roboboy now acts slightly more boy than robo, and this is where the movie begins what becomes its biggest problem. David's face goes from being a cold smile to a that of an open mouthed, scarred little boy who looks like he has no idea what he is doing. You know, Osment's normal look! He also stops being a creepy robot and starts to act more like a mildly creepy momma's boys who constantly needs attention. Yes, this is our main character folks. Have fun with him...

Oh yeah, one minor note I feel obligated to address. The family also owns a robotic teddy bear that possesses its own form of artificial intelligence. Okay, okay, okay, hold on, I swear it is not as quite as stupid as it sounds! Yes, at first it is rather disturbing in a movie that did not need to be anymore disturbing. In fact, I'm not really sure why they added it to begin with because it serves almost no purpose to the story. However, the bear, while lacking in personality, does try to be helpful at times, even to the point where he seems wiser than most of the main characters. Yes...the animatronic teddy bear is one of the more likable characters in the movie. That's...............ugh....
Guess which one is the better actor...

Well, the fun does not last for long, because (surprise) the parents real son Martin (Jake Thomas, the kid who played Matt on "Lizzy McGuire") wakes up from his coma. And guess what, he is an obnoxious little brat! He manipulates David to do to a bunch of bad stuff. Now to be fair, I do not have too much of a problem with this part. Sure the kid is a jerk but given that he suffers from "one child syndrome," it kind of makes sense in a brotherly manner that he would do this and it's nice to see a film where even if someone, a child no less, is sick for a long time does not make them a saint. Or maybe I just do not like David and therefore don't care what happens to him!
He used to see dead people. Now he doesn't really see much of anything...

Anyway, even though the parents realize what is going, the roboboy becomes too much of a hassle for them to deal with, so they prepare to send him back to the lab to be destroyed. Strangely, it's the father who forces the mother to get rid of David...even though it was his idea to get him in the first place. Kind of a flip flop, huh? And then, ugh, the mother pulls a "The Fox and the Hound" and sets the robokid loose in the woods. I believe her thinking was "I can't bear to have you destroyed, so I am going to set you free in an environment where you have no survival skills and filled with people who will catch you and destroy you in the most gruesome way possible! I'm truly the Mother of the Year!"

It is at this point where we are introduced to another character, Gigolo Joe, played by Jude Law. As his name implies, he is a sex robot who spends his time pleasuring the ladies. But he runs into trouble when he is framed for killing woman and eventually meets up with David. Joe is probably the only character who I genuinely like in this film (other than...the teddy bear). He is charismatic, he has good moves (no, I don't, he is clever, and he has a healthy dose of cynicism but is still optimistic enough to look forward to the future. He is a really good character and Law plays him very well. So...WHY WASNT HE THE MAIN CHARACTER!!! Okay he didn't have to be the lead, but dear god, why have this cool sidekick attached to such any annoying lead! Its like the two don't even belong in the same movie! Rather frustrating, indeed!

Anyway, the two of them and the teddy bear (yes, he sticks around, just don't ask) meet up after they are captured by these anti-A.I. fanatics, headed by a guy played by Brendon Gleesen. They are then taken to this fair where robots are destroyed in front of a crowd of raging rednecks. There were some parts about these scenes that didn't really settle with me but not enough so I could really be to bothered to nitpick about them. I guess my biggest complaint that it is a virtually pointless aspect of the film. While it shows the tension between the battle over man and machine, there are other ways they could have done it. As it is, it really doesn't progress the story that much. They show it, David and Joe and the bear (....) escape, and that's it; the incident is almost never brought up again. Was filler really necessary in a 2 and a half hour film?!

Osment: "Gee, Mr. Law, we sure are going to have a great time making this movie!"
Law: "I wonder if it isn't too late for me to sign on to that 'Road to Perdition' script..."

So David sets out on a quest to get his mother to love him. How does he plan to do this? By finding the Blue Fairy from the Pinocchio story to turn him into a real boy. Wow, I don't know whether that's really stupid, sad, or both. For some reason, Joe goes along with it, and he leads them to Dr. Know, this annoying supercomputer that projects a 3-D version of Albert Einstein, voiced by Robin Williams (who incidentally was in his own subpar, futuristic robot flick, "Bicentennial Man"). It leads them to the now semi-submerged New York City, where they find themselves in the lab of Hurt's character. Hurt tells David how special he is because he is the first of his kind. But David wants to be the only one of his kind, throws a hissy fit, and then sets out to find the Blue Fairy on Coney Island [insert joke here]. Joe is captured by the police so that he can be transported to a better movie, Hurt is...never seen again for some reason, and David and the bear use a machine to go underwater. They find a model of the Blue Fairy, David keeps making wishes to become a real boy, they get trapped underneath a Ferris wheel, and are frozen.

Or at least that's what I would like to have had happen, but they still have the rest of the third act to drag out.

So 2,000 years go by. Humans are extinct, New York is completely frozen over, and aliens are digging up the remains of the area. They find and defrost David and the bear, and since the roboboy is one of the last links to the human race, you guessed it, they treat him like he is very special! They also tell him that they will be able to bring back his mother, but only for one day. So the mom is brought back, David gets her all to himself like he always wanted being the little attention whore that he is, she goes to sleep, he goes to sleep (even though he said earlier that he technically can't), and then he either goes into a coma or dies, I don't know, something about dreams and such, the teddy bear sits on the bed wondering what the hell it's supposed to do, and the movie, finally, finally, FINALLY ENDS!!!
Wow, he gets to sleep in bed with his mommy. It makes me wonder who he would be like if he really was a real boy and grew up to be a real man...

Yeah, this looks about right.

Oh boy, that was a doozy. So how to sum it up...?

This is the kind of movie that has some things that work and other things that really, really, really don't work at all. It has an interesting plot and at least two decent characters, even if one of them is a teddy bear. But everything else is a problem. The main character is a selfish little whiner and too creepy for his own good, the rest of the characters are mostly forgettable and the story seems to feel the need to drag itself out for no reason.

Even the moral seems to be off. We are told point blank that it is whether humans can learn to love a non-living being. So what is the answer.'s unclear. The mom cares enough about David so that she secretly lets him loose, even though this almost seems crueler than destroying him. But there never appears to be a point where it seems she loves him. When she is "brought back to life" she seems more like a spirit than an actual person. So even though this version says she loves David it does not appear that this is really her talking; just a figment of Davids mental capacity (I wont even be surprised if the aliens manipulated her so she acted this way on purpose). I think the story actual is about whether robots can love, but that answer seems a little more definitive: no. And that leads to a problem for this movie...

If I had to say my biggest problem: I just didn't care about what happened. While I admit that story keeps intrigued enough to get you through to the end, you still don't really care about what happens to the main character. I make fun of Haley Joel Osment's acting, but to be fair, I am not sure how well any actor would have done because the part is written so badly. David is unlikeable due everything I already mentioned, but also because he is programed to be that way. It is not like in other films where there are some technical glitches or some other abstract interference that makes it so that the character wants to achieve a certain goal. He does it because that is what he is supposed to do. When he is stuck at the bottom of the ocean, making his wishes, it's not a sad child wishing against the odds in the name of love; it's more like watching a wind up toy that hits a wall and can't move around it. He never really becomes a real boy in either a physical or an emotional sense. So why bother?

So that is the film. Despite the efforts of two of cinema's greatest filmmakers, it's a wreck. I can't honestly say that I hated it because it was at least trying to be a great movie, but there are just so many things that go wrong with it that final product is just annoying and unpleasant. Therefore, I do not recommend it.

These images and links are copyrighted by their respective owners and are being used here for entertainment purposes only. Please don't sue me. [end with anti-SOPA comment]

Saturday, January 14, 2012

REVIEW: Final Destination 2 (2003)

Ah, Final Destination, the horror movie series catering specifically to clumsy people with no coordination, horrible luck and an inexplicable case of psychic premonitions…this is the half-assed, brainless sequel, brought to you by the genius mind behind Homeward Bound II, so let’s jump on in!

Director: David R. Ellis
Starring: A.J. Cook, Michael Landes

The movie begins with news footage recapping the first movie, because you know, missing that one really cripples your understanding of this one. We get some banter about how Death finds us all while the opening credit sequence rapes our eyes with ridiculous imagery that has nothing to do with the plot. This is something like the leftover remains of a bad Goosebumps episode – just silly.

Then we get our main character Kimberly, who is going on a journey to get away from her father, who I like to call ‘Essence of Kevin Costner.’ They’re going on a rockin’ road trip to Daytona, FL where they plan to get high and stuff, I guess, which is pretty much all they talk about in the car. The next ten or fifteen minutes of the movie is pretty much just this bunch of dillweeds blathering on about stupid nonsense and not really making a good case for their continued existence on Earth. So luckily…this happens!

Yes, we get the motherlode of all highway car pile-ups caused by a guy spilling beer on himself and a truck full of logs spilling them out the back and causing pretty much every damn car on the road to explode like a bad Michael Bay film.

I get the idea the movie’s entire budget was used on this one scene – was it worth it, guys? Was it worth it?

Well, I’d say no, personally, as we then see that it was all a premonition in Kimberly’s head, just like in the last movie. They make a big point of tying this into the last film, too, like I mentioned before – every radio spot and TV snippet we see is advertising this one-year anniversary of the plane crash from the first movie. Call it ‘convenience media breakdown.’

Anyway, she stops the pile-up and saves a bunch of lives, but then her friends get killed anyway, shock and awe, and I can’t say anything of worth was lost. I mean they weren’t even attractive. Isn’t that like rule number 1 of horror movies?

So then, just like in the last movie, they don’t question at all Kimberly’s premonition or anything; they just let her go. Because that kind of psychic foresight wouldn’t be at all worth experimenting on or looking into, would it? Not even worth a few minutes of questioning from scientific minds, huh? Well okay. There’s also this one guy who looks like he belongs in a movie more along the lines of Sugar Hill or something. He tells them pretty much what the opening credits already told us – death is after them, ooga booga booga, etc etc etc. Because when your viewers are the kinds of people who probably inhale paint every day, you have to REALLY HAMMER IN THE POINT. NO SUBTLETY ALLOWED.

Kimberly pretty much just mopes around, I guess, and we switch over to this one guy who would have been killed in the pile-up, who happened to win a bunch of money in the lottery before that. Apparently this guy has the luck of the gods, and is so pompous that he can throw spaghetti in a frying pan out the window for no reason!

I'm rich, so I don't need spaghetti anymore! Screw just throwing it in the garbage, I'm gonna THROW IT OUT THE WINDOW! I AM HARDCORE SPAGHETTI-THROWING MAN!

But his luck is about to run out as he gets his hand stuck in the dish disposal (couldn’t you just yank it out of there?) and somehow starts a fire that consumes his whole apartment…he gets out the window and gets to the ground, but slips on the conveniently placed spaghetti that he randomly threw out the window, and is then impaled by a fire escape ladder. Oh how oddly specific…

The revenge of the spaghetti! Karma strikes again!

Then we get some more prophetic fun as Kimberly sees some pigeon-hallucinations in the window and suddenly they’re positive that the next victim will get killed in a way involving pigeons! Here’s a question for you, filmmakers: if these deaths are really a result of ‘death’ trying to ‘set right the path’ or whatever…why does it give certain people these premonitions? It’s never explained! Why bother giving them clues to help THWART your plan? It’s like if a serial killer sent the police the location of his next murder in advance. What’s the purpose?!

But it’s okay, because next we get some of the most hilarious hijinks this movie has to offer us yet! In perhaps the worst dentist office in the world, we see that they let their fish tank leak all over the floor and the dentist gets distracted super easily as pigeons suicide-bomb into the window!

Yeah, I'm so glad this dentist's office is so secure in their electronics and water systems. Truly a place I would trust with the safety of my teeth.
And now there are birds inside! Great. Just great.

Wow. And I thought I had seen some ridiculous things on this blog before…

...I think someone's getting sued over this.

Well, I can safely say, the only way this scene would be sillier is if our main idiots came running up to the people about to be killed screaming “WATCH OUT FOR PIGEONS! THE PIGEONS!” And yeah, that’s pretty much what happens. It’s a bad thing when I can’t tell if the movie is so bad it’s good, or so bad it’s worse. The kid gets crushed by some construction or something and explodes in a cloud of horrible CGI blood sprays. What a worthwhile scene, right?! I especially love how the cop tells Kimberly not to bother the kid’s mom with the fact that she’s next in the cycle because “she’s going through a lot right now” – well, great, just let her maybe DIE too, right? She’s grieving, so just put her life in danger! Why not?

Kimberly goes and gets the ever-stupidly-named Clear Rivers from the first movie out of an insane asylum she voluntarily put herself into, and then they team up with the cop and go to see Tony Todd, also from the first movie! He’s even more ridiculous than last time, as he has his mortuary set up with cheesy fake fog and red glowing lights like something you’d see in a horror movie. He says that he knows Kimberly, probably because he’s actually just a creepy old man who stalks young girls in his free time – but I’ll let the movie keep pretending he’s supposed to be ominous.

Oh Tony Todd, you're such an awesome actor who gets stuck in such consistently lame roles. How desperate for money were you?

So then they all gather in this apartment with this police officer and everyone starts to argue about how much they hate the idea of death coming after them, and blah, blah, blah. Even the one Sugar Hill-ish guy from before, who previously told them the whole story about death coming for them in the first place, now hates the idea and protests that he’ll never let it happen to him – logic? What’s that?

Meanwhile, Nora – the mother of that kid who died at the dentist’s office – decides that she wants to die and is at peace with the idea now. It’s actually a fairly emotional scene. The movie decides to follow it up, though, with a death scene that rips off one from Scream. She gets her hair caught on the prosthetic arm hook of some guy who just happened to be on one of his daily ‘hang out in elevators with a box of prosthetic limbs’ itches…OH. HOW. CONVENIENT.

Oh ho ho, I carried around a box of prosthetic limbs AND sniff a girl's hair today! What a productive afternoon!
Ripping off Scream isn't the way to go, folks.

Following that up is another equally wasted scene in which this other guy tells Kimberly to go find his mom and tell her he’s sorry he disappointed her – again, a very emotional scene ruined by a tasteless and retarded death scene seconds later:

Oh Final Destination 2…you’re such a horrible, worthless excuse for cinema.

So there’s also this other plot involving a pregnant woman that Tony Todd told them could stop death’s plan if she has her baby. Kimberly has a vision of the pregnant woman driving a van into a lake, and so the cop has her pulled over and arrested for "stealing" the car - really just an excuse to keep her safe from the death cycle. The guy at the police station is such a good cop that he holds a gun in her direction while talking to her in her cell!

Best. Cop. EVER!

Her water breaks and they rush her to the hospital. Kimberly has some visions and stuff and then the baby is finally born, only for Kimberly to realize that they had it wrong – the pregnant woman was never supposed to die in the first place, and Kimberly herself was supposed to die driving the van into the water! So like a good little idiot she is, she steals a van and drives it headlong into the water. Wow. Truly, astoundingly retarded! I bet she’d believe anything. You could tell her she was actually the descendant of the Mole People and unless she killed herself, the world would end, and she’d probably go along with that, no questions asked. Truly a spectacle of human stupidity.

So yeah, she ends up surviving somehow, the whole supernatural chain of deaths stops for no reason at all, and everything is okay to the point where they can have dinner with this random family on a farm. Only then their son blows up in a nonsensical explosion and his arm lands on the table!

Okay, I can’t take it anymore; this is crazy! Complete lunacy! The Final Destination series is just crap. I mean I guess you get a few cool scenes like the big car chase at the beginning of this one, but what’s the purpose of any of it?! It’s all the more frustrating because I get the idea the makers of this movie knew they were making half-baked tripe that five year olds could write better. The fact that they did it anyway, with so little shame or discretion, just makes this whole thing all the more despicable! I declare this movie complete ASS. Full stop. Don’t watch it. Just run away; far away!