Friday, November 23, 2012

REVIEW: The Number 23 (2007)

This Thanksgiving, I am thankful for the fact that I’m not being hunted by evil numbers, that I’m not in prison, that I don’t run into evil dogs who guard the land of the dead, and that I am done watching The Number 23.

Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Jim Carrey, Virginia Madsen

Yeah, you remember this…the Jim Carrey thriller about a guy who is haunted by the constant reoccurrence of the number 23. Apt title, huh? It was Carrey's first real "serious" thriller, and for that it got a lot of press when it came out...I strongly suspect it would have been completely ignored if Carrey hadn't been in it. Otherwise this thing is just silly as hell, and full of ridiculous moments for me to make fun of, so that’s always something to rejoice about. And guess who directed it!

That’s right, Joel Schumacher made this shit. The guy who gave you bat nipples and the bat credit card made a stupid and terrible movie…I’m actually not even remotely surprised. Moving along.

It starts off with Jim Carrey in another classic comedic role…oh, wait, did I say comedic role? I meant serious thriller. So what’s his first profound, serious act in the film which separates this from his silly comedic roles in the past? He’s sitting in his truck, sees a dog go by and makes cat noises at it, which cause the dog to start going berserk…are we SURE this is a serious movie?!

Oh yeah, every great drama should start with the hero making cat noises at small dogs. That's a classic way to kick off a stirring serious movie.

We then see that he’s a dog catcher who takes his job a little too seriously as he delivers hammy speeches while chasing dogs through graveyards. I guess you have to get your kicks somehow when you’re a part of such a grave and serious profession. Wouldn’t want to let the gravity of the job of DOG CATCHER get to you, right?

OK, OK, so his job is silly…but what about his home life? He’s married to Virginia Madsen, and you have to give her credit…this is at least a better movie than either Highlander 2 or Candyman, so she’s moved up in the world since the early 90s. But given this film’s quality as is, that’s kind of like saying getting kicked in the shin with a steel toed boot isn’t as bad as your wife cheating on you with the mailman. Inconsequential and without any real upsides to the deal either way. Madsen, while the two are out on a date, finds a moldy old book called “The Number 23,” which she buys for no other reason other than to advance the story, because God knows they couldn’t figure out any other way to move this contrived crap forward.

Inexplicably, Carrey starts to read the book too, which tells the story of a guy named Fingerling who, as a child, found the dead body of his next door neighbor, and that screwed him up so much he became a super-cool detective!

Ooh, look at all that BLACK he's wearing! What a badass! What a tortured soul!

This whole thing is told in an alternate universe in which Carrey portrays Fingerling as the text of the novel is narrated over top. Fingerling goes and meets this suicidal woman who is crazy because she keeps seeing the number 23 everywhere. Which basically means she looks too far into everything and draws ridiculous conclusions from meaningless nonsense…wait; actually that sums up a lot of the first two acts of this movie. She’s played by Lynn Collins, who is a good actress, if your standards for a good actress include terrible, unbelievable emoting and lots of over the top screaming. Different strokes for different folks.

I mean this chick is nuts, man. Here’s some of her brilliant dialogue…

“Pink is my favorite color. You know what pink is? Red, 27. White, 65. 27, 65, 92. Pink has four letters – 92 divided by 4…TWENTY FUCKING THREE!”

How about…pick a new favorite color? Just a thought. You crazy nutball, you. Also, nice acting! You’re about as credible as a 13-year-old trying out for a middle school production of Mean Girls.

Well, OK. A mental institution production of Mean Girls.

Then we find out that maybe detectives aren’t qualified to give therapy to suicidal people as the woman throws herself out a window the moment Fingerling turns his back. Then later on, we see that Fingerling is such a good detective with such a sane girlfriend that they have sex at the crime scene! Totally OK!

Look at those monochrome colors and how evil they both look and how they're having sex at a crime scene...that's edgy stuff, man! Don't mess with these two!

In real life Carrey says he can really relate to this book. Really not making a stand-up case for yourself as the sane character who slowly goes crazy, buddy.

As he reads more of the book, he sees that Fingerling drives his girlfriend into the arms of another man by getting so paranoid about the number 23 that he starts counting her shoes (23 pairs, yo!) while they’re having sex. And then he’s surprised when she doesn’t want to keep on having sex. Are you kidding me, movie? Chicks love it when I talk about my paranoid obsessions! Hell, I remember last week I was hanging out with a girl and told her that I kept seeing strange visions of men in black taking away people on the street. For some reason she hasn’t returned any of my calls.

In real life, Carrey gets more and more paranoid about the number and starts dragging his wife and kid into it. Well, “real life” in the context of the movie, anyway, because in really real life the wife would take the kid and just go to a hotel while daddy works out his lapses in sanity. But here they stick around and humor him. Carrey, never one to waste an inch of his family’s piteous interest in his insanity, takes this humor and runs with it, even going so far as to draw his wife and son into his crazy schemes. Isn’t he just the perfect father? I think so.

Great familial bonding always means staking out potential serial killers. You guys who just want to go have Thanksgiving dinner with your loved ones are missing out.

So we get some stupid scenes of the son being all like, “dude, I’m 15 years old, I believe in stupid conspiracies because I can’t help it at my age (but once I get to my 30s like you, Dad, I’ll think it’s all totally retarded)!” They even go to the extent of circling every 23rd word on every 23rd page of the book, which somehow leads them to this park where a dead girl is buried. And you know, father and son bonding is at its best when you’re hunting for buried bodies in the middle of the night.

"Hey, son, point the flashlight over here!"
"Okay Dad, this is some great father-son time we're having here! Totally not scarring me for life!"

While Carrey and his son are calling the cops, apparently his wife and this doctor guy come and STEAL THE WHOLE SKELETON OUT OF THE HOLE, and disappear before Carrey comes back. Did Carrey really wander so far away from the site where they found the body that he would ENTIRELY MISS TWO PEOPLE DIGGING IT UP AND DRAGGING IT AWAY? If so, why? And what, his son is so blind and deaf he didn’t notice it either? Either these two are the STUPIDEST ASSHOLES IN THE UNIVERSE, or the movie is just a shining example of horrible writing. I’m currently weighing the two to decide which one is really true…while I’m doing that, let’s just wrap up the review.

It turns out that Carrey himself committed the murder and wrote the book The Number 23, and then repressed the murder after some brain damage and the book was published by his psychologists under a pseudonym (Topsy Kretts…Top Secrets…yeah, that’s about the level of wit this movie has).

Yup. That’s all there is to it. Totally not ANY stupid plot holes I need to talk about or elaborate on further with this. I’m done with the review. Yup. The worst parts of the movie are behind me. I am absolutely, positively DONE.






Oh, you didn’t believe that for a second. Alright, where do I start? Well, let’s just go chronologically through the whole mess, which tells Carrey’s strange backstory. Basically he saw his father kill himself when he was a kid, and so Carrey was screwed up. In college he met a hot chick who liked to be handcuffed to beds and liked her men to threaten her with knives. Because someone like that is obviously the picture of stability, Carrey was surprised when she started cheating on him. I guess he was a total moron. He got obsessed with the number 23 because of his father’s paranoia in his childhood, which further drove her away.

They apparently met at a hotel, where Carrey strangled her and then stabbed her a bunch of times, making a big mess – they don’t pay hotel maids nearly enough, you know? Carrey ran away but then the guy she was cheating on him with showed up and got arrested for the crime and sentenced to prison for life just because he touched the knife. Because it’s not like Carrey would have left ANY fingerprints or identifying marks when he stabbed a woman in the heat of passion. I mean he didn’t even have time to clean up or anything! How are the cops this stupid? Even in a Joel Schumacher film I expect at least some intelligence. They really didn’t even bother to CHECK THE CRIME SCENE for any indication that, here’s a bright idea, the bloody, violent stabbing death WASN’T committed by the guy with no blood on him at all and no signs of having struggled with anyone? Hell, even a Seth Rogen comedy like Observe and Report had more realistic cops than this! That’s how bad we’ve gotten!

"You have no blood or fingerprints anywhere else on scene, but we're arresting you and putting you away for life without trial, because that's how we do things in Schumacher world! We're the best cops!"

Oh, but it doesn’t even stop there! The movie goes lower! After that, apparently Carrey wrote the entire book The Number 23, starting it as a suicide note but then deciding to hide the last chapter (which contained the actual suicide note and confession) right before jumping out a window to try and kill himself. What sense does that make? But he survived anyway and was taken to a mental institution where he apparently recovered with, very conveniently, no memory of the horrible murder, the writing of the book or even of the girl he liked so much at all. Everything else about him was fine – he just lost the memories of all the bad stuff that had happened in recent times.

After recovering, he literally bumped into Virginia Madsen’s character RIGHT AT THE GATES OF THE MENTAL HOSPITAL, after which it is implied they started their relationship, got married and had kids…

I just love stupid is it that he meets the future love of his life right as he's walking out of a mental institution? He didn't even make it all the way out the gates yet. I guess it never came up why he was at that hospital, or that he had memory loss, or that the cops would want him for questioning after his ex-girlfriend he didn’t remember was violently stabbed and murdered? THAT MAKES NO GODDAMN BAT-SHIT SENSE AT ALL! You just crossed the line movie! You just became completely indefensible! He just goes and lives a normal life for YEARS afterward without anything triggering the memories or anyone from his past reminding him of the girl or his time at the college or anything? Losing your memory isn’t just like taking a few pieces out of a puzzle, you goddamn movie; it’s more complicated than that.

The Number 23 is just a big headache of a movie, with little logic to the story and almost no redeeming factors in any other area either. Jim Carrey tries, but the script is so bad that he doesn’t seem to know what he’s doing. Everyone else is just bland, with the exception of the “suicide blonde,” Lynn Collins, who is just terrible in brand new ways. Nothing is atmospheric or effectively done at all, and the film as a whole is just a pile of conspiracy theory shit made by a guy who thought it was a good idea to put George Clooney as Batman. Does that sound like someone whose advice you’d like to take at all?

Truly a respectable filmmaker, Mr. Schumacher is!

The whole "23" thing is so stupid, too, and obviously just the result of really far reaching grasping for straws and paranoia. Every incident of the number can basically be summed up as "coincidence," and all the shit this movie pulls about it is so goofy it's impossible to take seriously. You can take anything and twist it around until it adds or subtracts or multiplies or divides to 23, and anyone who is stupid enough to believe this whole farcical conspiracy...well, this movie is for you guys. Certainly the rest of us don't want it. Frankly I think this movie deserves 23 whippings with a belt.

To sum up the experience of watching The Number 23…well, just watch this video:

The images in this review are copyright of...oh my God, are there 23 total characters in all the captions in this review? I'M COMING APARTTTTTTT!!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

REVIEW: Cloud Atlas (2012)


Cloud Atlas is the new film by the artists formerly known as the Wachowski Brothers, now something more like ‘the Wachowski Siblings’…but that’s a story for another day, and today we are here to talk about how bad Cloud Atlas is.

Director: Various
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent

This is purportedly one of those multiple-storyline films like Magnolia or Crash, except much larger in scale, spanning waaaaay out across time, space and location varying from a pirate ship to the far future where there are clones and intergalactic police that wear all black and fire laser guns. The thing about this is that they use the same main actors, including an ensemble all star cast of people like Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent and Hugo Weaving. All of these people are very talented, which makes it so much worse that that talent is being wasted in favor of the makeup artists showing off and the Wachowskis acting like making a movie this preachy makes up for the money spent on it that could have been used for any number of charities. You can’t tell me the money used for this bloated mess couldn’t have been better used to feed some African kids or something.

This is just the biggest, most egregious, pretentious film of the year, and it has to be in the top 5 of the last 10 years, at that. At the start it seems like a really intriguing concept, as the stories are just setting up their themes and characters and you don’t know exactly where they’re going yet. The settings are all very good and the movie is visually gorgeous. There’s a story about a journalist who stumbles onto a conspiracy by the government, one about an old man set up by his brother in a trap, and a third about a gay man in the 1700s or so who is blackmailed by a famous composer into writing for him, among others – I’d go into each one, but really the stories don’t matter, and each one is just window-dressing for the Wachowskis to be all arty. This movie really thinks it’s smart, and even more than that, thinks it’s something really deep and meaningful, which gives the whole thing this slick, overpowering sheen of condescending schmaltz that makes it less endearing than the worst Hallmark cards. I really hate movies that act this smart and can’t back it up.

Every story in this movie is inconsequential because the underlying themes are all the same: each one is basically just a big old ‘one lone rebel standing against the BIG BAD OPPRESSION OF THE GOVERNMENT (or (insert mainstream masses here))’ plot that’s been a hallmark of literature since probably the dawn of civilization, only done so poorly in this due to a lack of any kind of nuance or depth. Every story is about some lone outcast of civilization getting captured or oppressed and, through chase scenes and lots of inner courage and other bullshit, they eventually rebel against their captors or pursuers and PROVE A POINT.  None of these stories has anything going on aside from that broad message. There’s a lot of stuff happening in each one, but very little of anything actually being said. The pacing is just atrocious, as each story is given such a disproportionate amount of screen time at a time that you forget what’s going on in the other stories whenever it switches scenes, which is done with very little warning or logic.

The message is supposed to be that “everything is connected”? That’s a laugh and a half…these stories are all connected only by the virtue of having the same themes and the same actors in every one. It’s easy to say they’re connected when each one has the same basic story…all these idiots needed to do was change a few costumes, rewrite the setting and wallah, NEW STORY! And MY GOD this is pretentious…you have no idea, man. There’s one story set on a pirate ship where some guy befriends a runaway slave, and we’re supposed to be oh-so enchanted even though half the time this story is completely ignored in favor of the other ones, so good luck there…they eventually get back to land and the moral of it all is that the white guy tells his snooty white friends that he can’t help them anymore because they endorse slavery. What results is a tired, dated scene where the good guys all give the stuffy old conservative white bastard the finger and he’s all “you’ll never be welcome here again” and they don’t care because they just need each other…not a bad sentiment, movie, but the way it’s done here is vomitous and vile.

What else…I mean, I could spend as much time as the movie runs itself talking about why everything is so godawful in this. One story is about this gay guy who writes a symphony and ends up getting blackmailed into letting some old composer take credit for it. It could have been a pretty touching historical fiction, but the movie just drives it into the dirt and it ends up simply depressing and pointless as he kills himself – which isn’t much of a spoiler as it happens in the first ten minutes and then they flash back to show what happened. Another story is about some clone girl in the future becoming a martyr for her kind, which also goes nowhere because it’s just egregious unpleasant drawn out scene after egregious unpleasant drawn out scene. Doesn’t exactly work when it’s framed by comedic stories like the one about a bunch of old people trying to escape a nursing home, which is literally just in here as a joke, and doesn’t have any serious moments in it. The whole thing is incredibly disjointed, and whatever serious emotions we are supposed to feel for the more somber storylines is hijacked by goofy ones in other storylines. The fact that they’re all jumbled up together just makes everything lose any kind of emotional impact it could have had.

I haven’t even mentioned the final story yet, which is about a futuristic “after the fall” world where everything looks like a big wasteland and where people have been reduced back to tribal warrior days. The whole thing is just confusing as all hell as there are large portions of it left unexplained, like what the motive is of the strange exotic warrior woman helping Tom Hanks, or why Tom Hanks keeps seeing schizophrenic visions of a strange leprechaun-man telling him to kill her – why is this character supposed to be the hero of the story again? He’s passed off as a hero but clearly he’s crazy as shit, and his insanity is never addressed.

It turns out the whole thing is just a framing device for Hanks as an old man to tell a bunch of kids all the various stories you’ve been seeing throughout the movie. Which is the BIGGEST SLAP IN THE FACE. GODDAMN. So what, was he telling it just as the audience saw all the stories; all jumbled up like that? That must have been a fascinatingly headache-inducing trip! “And then the gay guy got blackmailed by the old man into letting the old man steal his life’s work. And after that, in the future world, everyone found out that the clones were being used as a food source! Meanwhile in the 1970s, Journalist Halle Berry uncovered governmental corruption…” Why are these kids so excited about this? Most kids would be scratching their heads and wondering why Mommy and Daddy left them with their crack-addict aunt and uncle again.

And this is THREE HOURS LONG. THREE HOURS OF THIS. I MEAN MY GOD. Look at how much caps lock this movie just made me use! Even though every story is essentially telling the same message and themes, the film takes forever to get there, and you’ll keep sitting there watching it anyway because it’s all so over the top and ridiculous that you just wonder how the hell they’re going to end it, because, hey, you’ve been sitting through the torture for this long anyway! Every story here could have been split into its own movie with how much random shit is crammed into each one and how long the final product is, but then again, as individual films these would just amount to NOTHING because there’s so little substance in them. Nobody would ever care about any of this shit if the Wachowski name wasn’t attached to it. I’ve never read the book or anything, but I can’t imagine it being as vapid as this cinematic drivel…it’s hard to imagine anyone dedicated enough to write a book, a medium without any visual stimulation like a movie would have, with so little intelligence and so little meaning as Cloud Atlas the movie has.

The worst crime this movie commits is hard to peg down, between its length and the gargantuan amount of wasted talent, money and effects on the horrible story, but mostly I’d have to say it’s the implications of these stories, and the expectations the movie sets up. With all the bravado, all the ruckus and all the ridiculous amount of build-up this movie has, for its seven or eight different stories going on at the same time, it’s not a big deal to say that one expects a certain level of payoff for said build-up. One expects to be compensated for the wait with a gestalt of intellectual enlightenment, or at the very least, some kind of message that had a lot of thought put into it. With stories ranging from the 1600s to thousands of years in the future, the Wachowskis had a lot to work with in Cloud Atlas – they had a variety of different settings and characters they could have potentially taken advantage of.

And what do we get? “Governmental corruption/betrayal is bad.” Oh. What a shocking revelation. It doesn’t even matter that there are so many different times and places, because this movie’s message could be summed up in a 30-minute educational video for a middle school history class. One story involves a well-to-do white guy who ends up rebelling against slavery. Another is about a future world where two rebels discover that the government is using clones to recycle for food. And yet a third is about a journalist who uncovers a conspiracy about some kind of bomb they want to set off and kill people…for some unknown reason. Aside from the slavery thing, all of these stories are really vague, too, which is further insulting to my intelligence. Three hours of build-up, seven different stories, all these big name stars, all this ballyhooing and you can’t even be bothered to tell a coherent story? Get the hell out. This is more than just another big-budget flop; this is what I said it was – insulting. This movie is insulting. What does it say that the most entertaining story in this pile of shit is a comedic throwaway about some goofy old people playing James Bond and trying to escape from a nursing home run by villains that make Nurse Ratched look like a patron saint of well-balanced motherhood? That is shit! I mean, what is this, a big joke? Do they really think anyone will actually take this seriously?!

…I’m reaching my breaking point here, guys. I just don’t know anymore. But what I do know is that I can at least try to be the voice of reason with this. This is not an intellectual movie. It is not smart, it is not anything that should make you feel better about yourself after seeing it. Cloud Atlas is pure trash from beginning to end, with a smacking of self-indulgence and an even bigger helping of pointless, poorly written cinema. There is so much wrong with this that I haven’t even come close to covering everything wrong with it. But frankly, I’m done. I don’t want to talk about this anymore. This is a hideous train-wreck of a movie that I am glad I will never have to sit through again, and I would strongly urge you to avoid it at all costs. If even one person doesn’t see it because of all this, I’ve done my job and contributed more to the world than Cloud Atlas did.

Image copyright of its original owner.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

REVIEW: 11-11-11: The Prophecy (2011)

Back in January, I reviewed a steaming, festering disaster of a movie called 11/11/11, made by The Asylum. It was a complete and total waste of my time. The Asylum’s penchant for making terrible ripoffs of Hollywood blockbusters just infuriated me back then. So, I figured, why not take a look at the original film, the one that inspired this to begin with…and I use the term ‘inspired’ loosely.

Director: Darren Lynn-Bousman
Starring: Timothy Gibbs, Michael Landes, Wendy Glenn

Yes, from the visionary brain of the second, third and fourth SAW movies, Darren Lynn Bousman, comes this little gem, 11-11-11: The Prophecy…and I do mean little, as this thing is only 82 minutes, and it shows. I mean, this thing has got to be the worst example of super-obvious cutting of a movie down to size I’ve ever seen. I bet the director’s cut is like a totally different movie. But then again, why would I want to see any more of this shit than I did tonight? I think 82 minutes was about 82 minutes too much for this. But it’s one thing to talk about it and quite another to actually witness it, so let’s just do that, shall we?

The movie begins with our main character Joseph Crone, a writer whose family was killed in a home invasion, and so now he sees choppy, annoying visions of fire and angel statues everywhere…get used to it; it’s all throughout the movie.

"AH! Man, I really hope I don't have any more flashbacks to The Omen sequels in my dreams...that would be terrible..."

Mostly this character is just crap. He constantly whines and complains all the time and a lot of the film’s runtime is his super-serious deep diary recollections, which is cool because all I ever want out of a thriller movie is the pretentious “dark” narrations of an obvious self-centered asshole like this character is. Oh, please, more of that! By the way, the editing in this movie is just atrocious, being compiled mostly of quick jump cuts that serve no purpose but to ham-fistedly show the passage of time…instead it’s just like the editing room had a collective seizure.

He goes to some grief counseling group where a woman is speaking about getting through loss. She approaches him afterwards and gives him a notebook, and then he gets into a car crash. He somehow survives this and goes on to mope some more about that – yes, he even bitches about not dying, because this character is so tortured and pained that only death could cure it! He gets a voicemail at home almost immediately after telling him that his father is going to die in a few days. Man, this guy just doesn’t get much luck. What’s next, is he going to get cancer? Is he going to get blackmailed by a Russian mafia boss into working as a male sex slave? Don't stop short of TRUE HUMAN SUFFERING, movie!

The irony of a character who wants to die not being able to, however, is funny enough to almost make up for it.

So it turns out his family home is in Barcelona, Spain, even though his brother and father are as white as can be and none of them is really shown speaking Spanish much in the film. That makes no sense, and was clearly just put in there to give Bousman an excuse to shoot in Spain. It doesn’t matter where this story takes place and setting it in Spain just doesn’t make any logical sense given the situation the characters are in. They lived in the US but then moved to Spain when Joseph was a kid, only for Joseph to grow up and leave Spain and come to England as an adult? Tell me how that couldn’t have been simpler. I know it’s a petty thing to bitch about, but…it’s just so silly!

It turns out Joseph has a brother, Samuel, who is in a wheelchair. So not only did he lose his wife and child to a crazy murderer, get into a car accident and now his father is dying, BUT ALSO he has a brother in a wheelchair? Jesus! You know, there IS a limit to how much suffering is realistic, you know! This just comes off like they were trying to cram in as many horrible things to do to these people as possible. It’s totally hackneyed, and feels incredibly half-assed.

The father is lying in bed about to die, but that doesn’t stop him from sitting up and doing a silly scene where he speaks in a goofy voice about how everyone is watching - my god, the movie's become self aware! Run for your lives!

That face...ha ha ha...that's gotta be the only funny thing in this whole damn movie.

There’s also a nurse lady named Ana whose only job seems to be making shitty jump scares. If you think that’s scary, though, just wait until you see Samuel’s church service, in which people can apparently just show up randomly with guns and try to attack the pastors…eh, no big deal.

Aw, poor guy...he just is extremely sensitive...

No, really, apparently it’s no big deal. That’s what Samuel says. “Oh, he’s been under a lot of stress lately,” is his rationale for being OK with a member of his congregation pulling a gun on him. DUDE. HE PULLED A GUN ON YOU. WAKE UP. What’s going to happen next time? “Oh, he stabbed me seven times and then raped and murdered my girlfriend? He’s just going through a hard time. Don’t fret it.”

Joseph spends a large amount of time in the next few scenes just bashing Christianity and bitching about how his childhood sucked. Because his wife and kid got murdered, he has lost his faith in God – that’s understandable. But what isn’t understandable is the sheer jackassery he displays by constantly acting like a dick to the people who care about him. This guy is just a douchebag! If you think your own pain and grief is an excuse to be rude and insensitive to everyone else, you lose the right to grieve, asshole. Go sit in the corner.

After that is over, we see another trademark of this movie: fast, jerky-camera action scenes with tons of quick cuts and screaming. Because if you don’t have that, your movie just can’t be scary at all. Who cares about atmosphere or tension build up? Just have Rob Zombie-esque puke-worthy camera cuts and lots of screaming to nauseate the viewers further. That’s the true way of horror.

Supernatural visions that don't really mean anything? Yup it's a crappy modern horror flick.

If that isn’t enough, Joseph then starts to notice a pattern that everything bad happens to him involves the number 11:11 – when his wife and kid died, when his brother got attacked, and the time displayed on a crazy looking video that is probably the next Paranormal Activity movie:

I will also accept 'Blair Witch 3: The Stupidity of Idiots Who Think Random Fog Means Something.' Well, OK, I guess that title could use some trimming down.

The real cincher – the real gem – here is the following scene, which consists of Joseph saying that he now believes that celestial beings from beyond are controlling everything through the numbers 11:11:11. Yes. The same man who has been ALL MOVIE denouncing Christianity is now believing in this crazy shit. “Your belief in God is silly, BUT I BELIEVE IN MYSTICAL BEINGS AND NUMBERS REAPPEARING!” I…I just can’t even follow this now. It makes no sense. It has no logic. There is NO REASON WHATSOEVER that this should have progressed beyond the drawing board.

So Joseph goes over to that one crazy guy’s house, the one who pulled a gun on Samuel at the service. His wife says he’s troubled and has been reading about dark magic and stuff. Uh, movie, I’m not sure you’re really focusing on the right thing here. This man pulls guns on innocent people. He should be locked up until he is of sounder mind. That’s all there is to it! Joseph gets a hold of the guy’s camera which apparently has some crazy stuff on it, and has to go develop it. At the camera shop, it really makes sense that he can’t speak Spanish to the employees and instead impatiently shouts at them in slow enunciated English like they're retards, because it’s not like he grew up there or anything…oh wait, he did…

Then he gets a call from that British stalker chick, who flies all the way to Sweden to meet him even though they don’t really know a thing about each other. Life is just dandy! I love the first scene she’s in with Samuel. Joseph comes in in the morning and finds them sitting together at the table. Samuel says she just popped in and he was telling her about the break in the other night. Yeah, really – hey, random stranger, come in and let me tell you about the break-in we had the other not. God, this movie is shit. It’s not even any big problems really – it’s a bunch of little, silly things like this that build up and fester over time.

There’s a scene where the father gives Joseph some hokey ‘mystical’ speech about how he has to protect his brother, which apparently is more than enough to get him to renounce his atheism (and…weird voodoo crap he believed in with the 11/11/11 thing) and convert to Christianity! I guess he really was just blowing hot smoke this whole time…heh heh…the father then dies and the first thing Joseph does is take the British chick out to walk in a maze! There they encounter the crazy guy again and he points a gun at them some more…it’s OK, he’s just going through a hard time.

"My father just died! Let's go walk around town and have some alone time together instead of staying at the house, comforting my crippled brother and waiting for the ambulance to arrive."

Joseph goes back to the crazy gun-wielding guy’s house again and breaks in, looking for more evidence, until the movie goes all David Lynch again and starts giving us psychedelic camera angles as Joseph gets shot. Finally. Can he please just die now? No, because that would destroy the movie’s outlet for piss-poor whining and faux-dark speeches about inner pain…he is fine apparently.

Was this guy's entire job description 'hold a gun at the main character'? Seriously. It's getting old.
Good to know that when you get shot, you don't die but rather just see visions of your dead family members standing in front of the DVD cover to the movie.

Then Joseph goes to get the photos and we don’t get to see what they are, but that’s cool because back at home, the demons are attacking. There’s a lot of running around in the dark, screaming, odd camera angles where you can’t see the action, and screaming. It’s mostly a big unwatchable mess and there’s nothing to be gained from it. Our final climax is when Joseph saves Samuel from being stabbed by the demonic creatures, and ends up finally dying…that’s right, a car crash couldn’t kill him and getting shot couldn’t kill him – it was like he was so wretched a character that even the Grim Reaper was like “dude, no!” – but getting stabbed once kills him. Make sense? No? Good!

Oh, I forgot to mention that these demonic creatures are a) never explained and b) looking a lot like Pinhead's retarded cousins who he sits far away from at family dinners.

Then we get the aftermath, in which the brother Samuel turns out to be evil along with everyone else in the film…they start a new religion based around Joseph dying. You know, it’s not exactly a BAD twist or anything but we all knew SOMEONE was evil anyway, and there wasn’t really a whole lot of options. And what exactly are we supposed to take away from this? One unlikable asshole dies, so a freaky cult starts a new religion. So what? Are they going to destroy the world or something? Infiltrate the highest forms of government in the country? Or maybe they’ll just have tea and crumpets. Either option is equally likely.

This is a terrible, stupid movie and I can’t see how anyone would enjoy it. There’s just nothing good about it, from the piece of shit main character to the vapid storyline and rushed, haphazard editing style. 11-11-11 is so bad that I think there ought to be an end-of-world prophecy made around THIS shitty movie. “And on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, a godawful movie will arise, and it will be spawned from the creative black hole that made the SAW sequels…and the heavens wept in fear.”

Yeah, that sounds about right.

Images are copyright of their original owners and I do not own any of them.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Campaign (2012)

Well, the 2012 presidential election is almost over (thank God Almighty), and while I had not planned on doing a election-themed review, I recently saw a movie that fit that description, so might as well. So will it be the Robert Redford classic "The Candidate"? Or maybe a full review of "The Ides of March"? 

Nope, its going to be the movie where Will Ferrell punches a baby. Stay classy, Observer...

Starring: Will Ferrell, Zach Galifianakis
Directer: Jay Roach

The movie stars Will Ferrell as a buffoonish congressman named Cam Brady who is running for reelection when he is caught trying  to make an illicit phone message to a mistress. Suddenly vulnerable, he is challenged by an odd yet idealistic tour guide named Marty Huggins, played by Zach Galifianakis. While he seems like a long shot, he is under the influence of the wealthy Motch Brothers, played by Dan Aykroyd and John Lithgow (or as they are known on this blog, the sitting president in "My Fellow Americans" and the Trinity Killer from "Dexter"). They remake his image with the help of a shady campaign manager (Dylan McDermott) and it leads to a race that get nastier and nastier by the minute.

This an okay movie. I know, I know, I know, I say that about a bunch of different films which by most critical measurements do not deserve even that small positive feedback. That is partly a matter of how I view films, which is trying to see all sides of the picture. But I am also being honest about this one. 

Now that being said, its not exactly a game-changer. Ferrell and Galifianakis play the roles that they usually play, the former being the loud and angry jackass who hurts himself a lot, the latter being...weird. The supporting characters do their parts more or less the way they are suppose to do them. The plot is that of a typical political comedy: Groups A and B just can't get along and get into wacky situations because of it. It also ends on a familiar note: serving the people = good, greedy special interests = bad. In other words, this is another "it is what is is" type of movie.

So what exactly keeps this movie afloat, if anything? Well, it has a bunch of idiotic characters being really crass and unpleasant, which has been the death of many a comedy, and Will Ferrell in particular has been guilt of that on more than one occasion ("Step-Brothers," "Blades of Glory," etc.). I guess the big difference with this one is that, well, it's about politics: the way people act in this movie are obviously over-the-top, but given the way real campaigns are run, I do not think a lot of people are going to be seeing this and complain that it depicts our political system in a negative light. They may not approve of a lot of the bathroom humor or some of the other things that are shown or said, but not the overall emphasis on the nastiness. Comparing your opponent to Al-Qaeda does not look quite as outrageous in a political environment that spreads rumors about "death panels" and features ads about Grandma getting tossed off a cliff. So on that basic level, it works.

So, is the movie funny? Mmm, parts of it. Despite being a dramatic actor, McDermott is pretty amusing as Tim Wattley, an intense campaigner whose methods are a bit extreme to say the least. And Karen Maruyama also provides some humor as Mrs. Yao, the maid of Huggin's father (Brian Cox) who is obligated to talk with a Southern black accent (despite the fact that she is Asian) so that he can be reminded of the "good ole days." Saturday Night Live's Jason Sudeikis does a decent job acting as  Everything else is kind of hit and miss, but it keeps the film going at a steady paste (and it helps that it is only 85 minutes long).

On a side note, I kind of wished that the Motch Brothers had gotten more of a role in the film. Although they were modeled after the real-life Koch brothers, they remind me a lot of the rich brothers from "Trading Places," which was not a political film but had a vaguely similar plot. This comparison is even more compelling when you consider that Dan Aykroyd was the victim of the brother's conspiracy in that film and is now a brotherly co-conspirator in this one. I just think that is an interesting career transition, even if it was not intentional. So I wish that the movie had played more upon their characters, particularly given the comedic abilities of both Aykroyd as well as Lithgow (remember that episode of "3rd Rock from the Sun" where he brutally murders a woman in her bathtub and...wait, I think I am getting his TV roles confused...). Then again, if they did end up doing that and the attempt flopped, there is a good chance I would be complaining about how the filmmakers were trying to rip off "Places" or that they were trying to make a partisan political statement (they are, in fact, a bit partisan, but not in an overwhelming manner). So, it cuts both ways. I just thought I would point this out from my own nerdy, movie-obsessed point of view.

So overall, the movie is...passable, I guess. It all really comes down to how you feel about the two main actors. As I have indicated here and in the past, I have mixed feelings about Ferrell and I like Galifianakis well enough but I won't say I am crazy about him. If I had to place a range as to where this falls in terms of their respective filmographies, I would say it is not as good as "The Other Guys" but better than "Due Date." Sound like a ringing endorsement to you? Eh, didn't think so. My point being is that if you are a big fan of one or both of them, you will probably like it. If you don't like either of them, you may want to skip it. As far as being a political comedy goes, this one relies a lot more on gags than satire. Again, it depends on what you like, though for me it's a little hard to recommend it since there is better stuff out there (such as, well, "My Fellow Americans":

But if any of this appeals to you, by all means, go and see it. I am guessing, however, that you may want to wait a bit before you do so. I think we have all had enough of campaigns for the time being, don't you?

I do not own the pictures or links displayed above. They are for entertainment purposes only. Please do not sue me.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Troll 2 Review: Part 3 - Best Worst Movie (2009)

The First Part
The Second Part

So Troll 2 is a spectacle of a movie – it’s so bad in every aspect that it should be indefensible, but somehow it comes out as a glorious, beautiful butterfly of a bad movie. Everything about it is awful. The acting is stale and the writing is confusing. The storyline is so botched that it may very well have come from a coke-addled mental patient, and the special effects are like something a couple of college kids threw together in an afternoon. The directing is a cobble of ridiculous close-up shots and nonsensical ideas that make the film even more of a headache, when it isn’t side-splittingly funny. These things are basically ironclad facts. So why do we love it so much?

Director: Michael Stephenson
Starring: Michael Stephenson, George Hardy, Claudio Fragasso, the rest of the Troll 2 cast

Best Worst Movie, released in 2009, is a documentary made by the lead actor of Troll 2, Michael Stephenson, who played Joshua the wonder kid in the movie, and it attempts to shed light on these questions. In Best Worst Movie he takes a camera and documents the cult phenomenon that Troll 2 has grown into, with showings all over the world and lots of devoted fans who don’t quite fit into any other fanbase. Lots of shots are used of people in low-fi theaters laughing their asses off at the movie. It’s heartwarming and really cool to see how a movie like this has affected people. Some journalists quoted in the film call Troll 2 ‘the Rocky Horror of the Myspace generation,’ which is about as accurate a description as anyone can come up with.

But the real treat is seeing what all the stars from the movie are doing 17 years later. George Hardy, who played the dad in the movie, is given a lot of the spotlight, because he is honestly just a cool, wacky character. He’s a dentist in a small town in the Midwest who is well-loved by everyone he knows and a popular face in town even without the Troll 2 fame on his back. You see a lot of dimensions from astonishment that his movie is finally being recognized to discouragement when he goes to conventions and nobody knows him. Some of the best scenes are the actors re-enacting scenes from the original film all these years later. The one with Hardy, Stephenson and Margo Prey doing the “row row row your boat” scene is priceless.

The disconnect between the director’s intentions and the critical reception is just insane here. Claudio Fragasso fashions himself, apparently, a pro filmmaker, and seems to honestly kind of resent the way everyone just laughs at Troll 2 now. To his credit, he does seem to like playing to the crowd for laughs, but I don’t know, the look in his eyes just seems a little annoyed at it all, and he comes off as pretty pompous really. Both he and his wife, who wrote most of the script and story, just can’t seem to see what about the movie is so funny.

The real thought provoking things in this film, though, are the actors who are…different. Like Margo Prey, who played the mom in the movie, and who is obviously a bit off. She’s just a little odd and you feel sorry for her because she doesn’t seem like life’s given her its best hand. Same thing for the general store guy in real life – he lives alone and just doesn’t seem terribly well-off. He tells the story of how he got the part: he was a mental patient at the time, self-admitted, and had no idea where he was or what he was doing. “It wasn’t acting,” he says, and he means it. He also says that when he got on stage at one of the Troll 2 screenings, it was “the first time he ever felt happy with himself, in his life.” That’s really touching, and brings the movie to another level. If a movie like this can make somebody feel like that, I don’t care what you say, it’s not a bad movie. No movie that makes a person feel that way can ever be bad.

Best Worst Movie is a documentary about people. If you want a film that just makes fun of a bad old 80s movie, look elsewhere. This just takes a strange, unique situation from years ago (the filming of Troll 2) and catches up with everyone to see what their lives are like afterwards. It shows that people in terrible movies are just people, too, and that the line of quality between good and bad movies is really rather blurry – what critics and popular opinion says really matters way less than people think. Movies are so much more than just black-and-white good or bad. They’re hard work by lots of people, and Best Worst Movie shows that through every pore, through every odd humorous anecdote and every cheering crowd. For that Best Worst Movie has left an impact on me.

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