Saturday, March 28, 2015

It Follows (2015)

The horror underground has been buzzing about this film lately, and for good reason – it's fucking awesome. It Follows is a horror movie that does away with modern traditions like annoying flies on the back of its hand and instead hearkens back to the style of horror found in the 70s and 80s. With a story about a sort of possession that “follows” you once you have sex with a person that has it already, this is probably the most hyped movie in its genre in a while. I'm going to attempt to do this review with no spoilers – wish me luck!

Director: David Robert Mitchell
Starring: Maika Monroe, Daniel Zovatto

Set to an ominous, low-fi electronic soundtrack, the film opens with a creepy, subtly-building kill scene that's as bloody as it is artistic. We get introduced to main character Jay, a normal 20-something college girl who goes out on a date with a guy she's been seeing. The events start off innocuous but slightly creepy, tinged with it like a slab of slightly blackened meat. There's enough tension here and it's played out excellently so that you never really know when it's going to explode and deliver a Really Scary Moment (TM) – and when it does, it's not quite what you expect; being just a little bit off kilter.

Even in its most predictable moments, which are few, the scares are delivered with a sort of tongue-in-cheek irony that knows it's at least a bit silly – this isn't a movie that revels in overly serious exposition or one that doesn't know when to laugh at itself. And the jump scare sounds are booming and loud – I mean, these jump scares are legitimately good; much better than some movies that just throw them anywhere. These ones are actually scary and not just used as cheap devices – they're done at moments that are really tense or funny enough that you're laughing along with the film.

I mentioned exposition, and the film really, really does THAT so much better than any other ones out there right now – a lot of movies will just shove in awkward exposition scenes because they have no other way to explain the supernatural stuff going on. This one has a really strange and out there plot, but the writing is talented enough to explain it and make those explanation scenes entertaining – one of them is heart-stoppingly set in the most jarring, bizarre scene in the film. The other major one has plenty of humor. You have to make the scenes where you're explaining the plot entertaining on their own – otherwise they're just meaningless info dumps, and it sucks ass.

The characters are fun. The dialogue is witty and lighthearted and makes you feel like you're just part of their weird little suburban white kid group, and they all have distinct personalities. There's a bit of romance here and there and the backgrounds between these characters is developed slowly, in a way that makes you want to know more. It's really quite well done and some of the best characters I've seen in a horror film lately.

The settings are really nice, with a lot of great cinematography that really sucks you in, and really artistic lighting that enhances the subtly bizarre mood going on. Great stuff.

And yeah, there's some vagueness and ambiguity to the plot, and the rules of the monster don't quite make sense 100% of the time – there's some inconsistencies and moments where it only seems to appear when most convenient for the characters, like really, it didn't try to get her when she was in a hospital bed for days? How considerate of it. But that stuff shouldn't make or break a movie with this much atmosphere and well-written scares in it. A plot that makes sense 100% of the time isn't always a 100% perfect movie; that's what some people don't get when discussing horror flicks. You complain about the “rules” of a movie like this, maybe you should go watch a documentary instead.

The scenes of the creepy thing just walking up from the distance to get her, over and over throughout the film, are just so good, and so scary. They're masterfully built up and strike a perfect balance between being subtle and overt – very cleverly, deftly written for a horror film, perfect for the style. 

This is a movie you will be scared shitless of and also have a blast watching. It's retro but not imitative of any one movie. The writing is ingenious and the characters are quirky and relatable. The scares are incredibly well done. Along with Absentia and The Babadook, this is one of the first great horror movies of this decade. Go see it if you can.

Images copyright of their original owners, I own none of then,

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Children of the Corn 2 - The Final Sacrifice (1992)

The original Children of the Corn was already a stretch, being a whole feature length film based off a 30-page short story. But then they decided 'hey, we can one-up THAT in stupidity!' and decided to make a billion sequels to that original story. That's insane. That's pants-shittingly, madhouse, poop-flinging insane to levels that make the current 'shared universe' trend look positively conservative...I mean, at least the Harry Potter spinoffs are based on a multi-million dollar franchise, and at least the Marvel movies slated to come out for the rest of our natural lives are based on comics people already loved. What was there with Children of the fucking Corn? A 30-page short story by Stephen King. That's it. That was the extent of the inspiration for this franchise that ended up being like 11 movies long.

Sigh. Sometimes I just don't even know. But someone made the movies anyway, despite all logic, and so I am here to review it. This is just how it works. It's fate that everything is happening this way and I have no choice in the matter.

Director: David Price
Starring: Terence Knox, Paul Scherrer

Co-written with Michelle.

We start off with a guy discovering a bunch of dead adults in a basement, killed by the children of the corn before the film started. This presumably didn't really make the smell in his basement any worse than it was.

"I can't tell if it's the week-old salami down here or the rotting decrepit bodies of people I used to know, but man, it reeks down here now."

It turns out all the adults in a small town called Gatlin are dead and the kids end up in homes in a neighboring town. Like any respectable professional doctor, he gives them all lollipops and sends them on their ways, which I'm sure is a decent pacifier for the fact that their families are all dead.

Yes, they actually killed their own families, but the doctor doesn't know that...

The main character is this jack-off journalist who is traveling to the town to do a story on the killings with his son, because all good writers bring along their annoying sons to work. The son swears a lot and his dad reprimands him, asking him if he learned to talk that way from his mom, and then in the same conversation his dad also swears a lot. Because why make any sense even at the beginning of your movie?

They get to the town and have dinner with this hot chick who owns a hotel and wears shirts that say “Come sleep with me” as an advertisement for it – which I guess is actually brilliant advertising, if the person wearing it is attractive. At dinner, the son constantly makes fun of his dad and undermines his credibility at every turn – which makes the son my new favorite character for making fun of his weenie of a father.

The dad takes him outside and shouts at him about how he was an accident and a mistake, which is heartwarming in its honesty. I'm just so glad to see this family finally coming together and revealing all their secrets.

But yeah, the son leaves angrily, and the dad looks back inside at the boy who I'm sure he sees as a totally legit replacement as a surrogate smaller person to annoy some more.

"Wait, I need someone to project my own insecurities onto!"
"Eh, you'll do from now on."

While waiting for a bus out of town, the son runs into a hot chick, who flirts with him for no reason and then tells him as an afterthought that the bus doesn't come until Tuesday. What amazing priorities. I guess because he is the only person in town who is her age as well as NOT enjoying standing around staring unblinking and creepy, she immediately is attracted to him, which is exemplified in a later scene where she's standing underneath a waterfall in a bikini top and invites him over by actually non-ironically uttering the line “What, have you never seen a girl before?”

It's like she speaks solely in overused 1960s family movie romance cliches, and to really go all the way, just acts out every teen boy's fantasy too.

Speaking of kids who enjoy staring unblinkingly and being creepy, that's what the children of the corn do for most of the movie. I just love how unsuspecting everyone is about this – oh yes, that group of creepy kids who stand in a perfect group formation at all times and stare and smile creepily at everyone passing by CAN'T be up to anything bad!

Subtlety is, shall we say, not their strong point...

When they're not doing that though, they like to stand around in the corn and shout incredibly poorly written dialogue about how they killed the adults to make their own world a paradise. Being an adult for these kids is apparently just the worst thing you can be. It's like Peter Pan if written by Charles Manson.

My question though, is what happens when these kids grow up? Do they just get exiled or killed as soon as their voices drop and they start thinking about why exactly they're wasting their time with a cult of fucking moronic little children? If so, this is the worst cult since End of the Line.

The father, meanwhile, is just kind of wandering around doing nothing in a school, where he finds pictures of kids murdering their parents. He also runs into a stereotypical Native American man who does nothing but make insulting statements about how awful every white person is. While a Native American would have just cause to be suspicious of white people trying to take their land and shit, here it just comes off as out of place for a dumb Children of the Corn movie.

"I wanted a part in Poltergeist II, but instead I got shoved into this piece of shit. I've been drinking hard whiskey ever since."

Oh, and they find out there's actually some kind of conspiracy involving corn with mold growing on it, which they think released toxins into the air to make the kids go crazy and kill their parents. Somehow it's also some sort of conspiracy involving the sheriff, who goes insane and ties them up, trying to run them over with a corn harvester.

If you can figure out how this makes any sense in the film, well, you're better than I am at this sleuth work.
The wild eyes, the crazy evil grin, the completely over the top violent overreactions to everything - yes, elect him sheriff, he is perfect.

I dunno – he's just insane because GMOs, or money, or because sheriffs in small towns rarely have shit to do so they just like killing people with corn harvesters randomly. Either way I am sure the population of your local farmer's market will have an opinion about the purity of corn in some manner.

The whole movie is just confused as hell – we get scenes of the children of the corn murdering people mixed in with the random moldy corn investigation as well as scenes like these, which look like they came out of a cheap Harlequin romance novel adaptation:

"I thought I felt you getting frisky back there, but THIS is just ridiculous!"

To be fair though, most of those cheap romances don't end with finding disembodied hands on the ground while trying to have sex. If they did, I'd watch them more often.

The death scenes are even more over the top – witness the glory of a kill scene in a church where the main Child of the Corn stabs a voodoo doll thing and a guy bleeds to death from his nose.

This was the worst day at church since that day Millie had a hemorrhage from the bloody knife fight she had been in down at the retirement home last month.

Who was that guy? Why kill him specifically? I dunno. The movie never explains it. Hell, I'm also still trying to figure out how he managed to make that voodoo doll work, and why it's never used again for anyone else.

In another kill scene, they manage to rig an old lady's wheelchair so she gets hit by a truck and sent flying through a window of a nearby bingo hall.

To add to the super wacky comedy of the old lady in a wheelchair dying, some idiot then stands up in the rubble and goes “Bingo?”

This right here - this is the moment this franchise dies a cold death. There can be nothing else of worth spawned from this series at all after a scene this horribly cliched and hackneyed. It burns thine eyes even to gaze upon it for a second! AAAAHHHHH! 

As for how they managed to control that lady's wheelchair to begin with, eh, fuck it, I have no idea. Let's just get the rest of the review over quickly.

The finale is based around the son joining the children of the corn and going with them to their crazy ritual thing. They ask him to kill that girl he's been spending time with to prove himself, and the real indicator of what a great relationship they have is, HE ACTUALLY HESITATES AND CONSIDERS KILLING HER.

"It was fun having sex with you, but it was also fun having sex with the corn!"

Yes, really – he has to think about it for a few minutes. I guess it really was a hard choice between a kind and caring girl who seems to really like him, and a cult of weird Addams Family rejects whose only plan is to live out in the corn, cackling cartoonishly every hour or two, with no other ways of sustaining themselves until another town stupidly takes mercy on them. You know, I changed my mind; I can see why his dad hates him now.

They escape, and then get captured again, which really does great at padding out the bloated run time of this movie more than a fat kid eating a box of marshmallows all in one sitting! It's only 92 minutes, but don't worry; it feels like twice that.

There's a really lame scene where the leader of the children, about to die, pleads for the son to come save him because they're supposedly really great friends and stuff – I guess the movie forgot to show us those scenes – anyway, he turns into a demon for a few seconds, which does very little to influence the good guys' opinions.

Somehow the Native American guy died during all of this, and so they do the natural thing and burn his body right there in the corn fields before getting in a car and driving away like nothing ever happened.

Clearly he didn't have any relatives or loved ones who would have cared to know about this. Just burn his rotting corpse right now.

So this was pretty much complete nonsense. It seemed that way when we watched it, and afterward as I did this review, it seemed absolutely removed from reality in how crazy it really was. Plot threads were brought up and forgotten about just as quickly, the characters had no personality and the movie couldn't really seem to decide what it wanted to be. Is it a comedy, a horror film or some sort of weird message about food safety? Or is it just a piece of shit?

I think I'm going with that last one.

What was their plan when that town adopted them all after they killed their parents, anyway? I just can't imagine the complexities going on in their peanut brains. Really if they were so badass and ready to kill, they could have just slaughtered all the adults immediately and not even tried to pretend they were regular good kids - hell, they never tried very hard in the actual movie anyway, and instantly seemed evil without any provocation.

But whoops, if that actual logic had been applied, we wouldn't have been graced by the perfection that was Children of the Corn 2, or its gajillion sequels. Here's a picture of moldy corn to sum up what I really thought of this movie:

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Melancholia (2011)

Today we are taking a look at a movie that I'm sure would never make it onto your school's mental health wellness study week. Oh who am I kidding? Your school doesn't do that shit anyway and lets mental health fall to the wayside in favor of more standardized testing, so I guess it's moot. 

Director: Lars von Trier
Starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg

Co-written with Michelle.

Melancholia is one of the more recent films by Lars von Trier, who is famous for making provocative, artistic films. Now, given the fact that this is a very abstract, strange movie, I don't think it would be right to review this in the same way I would review Species 2 or something. In fact I debated whether to review this at all...but then I went nah, it's cool, I can do this. I did preparations Rocky-style by running up and down a flight of stairs this afternoon.

If you don't know, this is the movie starring Kirsten Dunst about a bride going through depression and also the world is ending. I listed those two plot points in that order because I understand priorities!

We start off with a slow-moving apocalypse scene with the world going to hell and a woman played by Kirsten Dunst and her family running around on a golf course with horses. It's very interesting and evocative imagery, only the problem is that von Trier played it so slow that I thought my computer was lagging – which kind of lessened the effect when I had to check my Internet speed instead of getting sucked into the atmosphere. I mean, that shit does happen all the time on Netflix when you're like me and have a computer you bought for $300 at Office Max.

The aftermath to Evil Dead?

But never fear, for then we get a scene of Dunst at her wedding day with her husband Michael. They're trying to do a three-point turn in a limousine and get to, you know, the wedding party itself. The driver can't hack it, so Michael gets in the seat and tries. Then he can't do it, so Dunst has to try. At what point do you just give up and rent a Subaru instead? So far this is probably the worst wedding I've ever seen, and I've seen a lot.

I sure hope they didn't pay that driver too much for having to get him out of the limo and do it themselves...

They finally get to her sister's humongous mansion, complete with a giant-ass golf course that nobody seems to use, and Dunst pauses the whole thing to go say hello to her real lover... 

Ohhhhhh yeah.

Inside at the party, we see that things aren't quite as idyllic as they appeared – including a whole table of women named Betty and a mother played by Charlotte Rampling that constantly stresses how much she doesn't like weddings, and for some reason came anyway. Also, the sister played by Charlotte Gainesbourge constantly has a scowl on her face at the wedding and constantly says she hates Dunst's character Justine over and over. The whole mood is very uncomfortable and goes on for a long time. So, like a real wedding, then. 

"Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll have 17,000 more glasses of wine. Clearly I haven't had enough yet."
The best wedding gift is soul-crushing depression to the point where you can't get out of bed.

The problem is just that we don't really get much of a story here. Yeah, the mood is tangible, and very well done for a little while, but it drags on for over an hour and there isn't much to really latch onto after a while. We get scraps of this story about how depressed Justine is and how she's had problems in the past, and you think, oh, it'll be revealed more later. Only it isn't. It's like a date with a person who speaks a different language, and you think, oh, we'll connect more when we spend more time together. It can't be that hard. But then you just end up at home alone anyway and more confused.

And don't get me wrong here – I'm not one of those assholes who just thinks all film has to be straightforward and anything that isn't an explosion-filled action fest just sucks by default. No, I didn't go into this expecting a Michael Bay action fest – thank you IMDb commenters. In fact that whole argument is just kinda bullshit to begin with; just because someone doesn't like something doesn't mean they were expecting some ridiculous polar opposite that you made up just to be condescending. Same shit in the other direction, too - “oh, you didn't like Transformers 5: Return of the Giant Phallic CGI Effects? YOU MUST HAVE JUST BEEN EXPECTING KING LEAR!!!”


Even so though, Melancholia just tends to drag on too long without enough real character or drama, so much as just the ghostly suggestions of those things. Instead of actual conflict, we get the implication of it, sort of tantalizingly waved in front of the audience's face like a slab of wet meat in front of a salivating dog. The atmosphere is still there, but where I wanted to hear some good, soul-searching dialogue that explored what was going on between them, I just got this: 

CLAIRE: It's not about the cost. It's just, I thought you really wanted this.

JUSTINE: But I do.

CLAIRE: Michael has tried to get through to you all evening, with no avail.

JUSTINE: That's not true. I smile, and I smile, and I smile.

CLAIRE: You lied to all of us.

Then Claire leaves, that's basically the end of that, and Justine goes and talks to Charlotte Rampling, because I really needed more scenes of Rampling telling her not to get married and that nobody wants to be here, so it's good the movie's got my back. I can see what von Trier wanted to do with these scenes, showing the futility of it all, but again - it's just bits and scraps of a real story; you don't actually get very much.

Oh, except for close-ups so invasive that you could pick the eye-boogers out of every character's head.

This whole wedding thing goes on for way too long, and culminates in Justine leaving her husband in the middle of wedding night sex and instead fucking some idiot who works with her on the golf course sand pit. 

"Hmmm...something isn't right here..."
"Ah, yes, this is better."

Oh, and then like a few scenes later, she calls out her boss and quits her job, despite having been given a promotion earlier in the wedding. Awesome. That's just amazing to me. Most of these wedding scenes seem to always come back to one central point – no one likes each other, no one wants to be at the wedding and yet they came anyway.

It's just that so much of this relies on interpretation – you're supposed to glean your own meaning of what this exactly is trying to say. So many of these types of movies just end up bullshitty when you get down to it. Yeah, there is some genuine artistic inspiration behind it, that much is clear, but it just doesn't make it a good movie alone. If I have to interpret things to the degree that I'm just filling in the crater-sized gaps in the movie's plot with my own imagination, I might as well just go make my own movie instead.

Oh, sure, von Trier was definitely trying to make a movie about depression, and the film has certain very interesting glimpses at what that feels like – there's one scene later on where Justine is staying at her sister's mansion and comes down to try and eat something, taking one bite and bursting into tears, exclaiming “It tastes like ashes!” It's honestly a good scene and is very evocative as to what it feels like to be depressed. 

That's just one scene though, and the whole movie is filled up with tons more vast stretches of silence and other vague scenes that sort of, kind of hint at the story, but the story you're waiting for never really comes to fruition. I don't want this to be too much more straightforward than it is – I like the weirdness and vagueness of a lot of the imagery and scenes here, but I'm a literature guy at heart; I want to see more of a glimpse into their characters and motivations and desires. Here, all I end up getting is more scenes of people scowling at one another, and none of the characters really get fully fleshed out.

Oh, but we do get Kirsten Dunst beating up a horse. Can't forget that! 

I never saw a "no horses were filmed in the making of this movie" disclaimer!

This whole movie is kind of like going on a road trip to somewhere and seeing vast, beautiful sights and scenery – and then ending up turning around and going home without doing anything or learning anything. I mean, look at some of the rest of these scenes in the last part of the movie. I'm tempted to think, with how glacial the pacing is, the actors could all just die on set and von Trier would never notice. 

"Sir, I think they've stopped breathing!"
"Keep filming! We need to get this right!"

The ending has some good scenes of Justine monologuing about the world ending, and also another one where they hide in a tent made of sticks against the fiery comet-death of the Universe. 

I guess soul-crushing hopelessness is one way to deal with it, and child's cowboys and Indians games are another. It would admittedly be funny if it worked, though, and the smoke cleared and they were fine underneath those sticks – which really are the only defense against fiery comets bigger than the Earth hurtling towards the whimpering, cowering planet, when you think about it. 

They could still be OK.

Too much of this whole movie is just what you bring to the table from your own subjective life experience – so much so that there's really nothing there in the movie by itself. Some people will probably watch this and see a very evocative, beautiful and haunting portrait of depression and how depressed people see the world. Others, like my friend who helps me do these reviews, will absolutely hate this and find it pointless and dull beyond belief. Personally I thought it was weak with little character development and even less of a real story.

Movies as a whole are like that. Melancholia is an extreme example, and really takes the “subjective experience” thing to a whole new level, being almost entirely reliant on it for the viewer to get something out of it at all, or else they'll just hate it. But the answer, no matter where you stand, is never just strawmanning it up and painting the opposite opinion as somehow hysterically wrong. Going either “you just want every movie to be a big dumb action movie if you hate this” or “you clearly only like butt-sniffingly pretentious arthouse crap and are obsessed with your own intelligence if you like this” is just too far. How about just not being a jackass about it?

I'd also like to take the time to point out that this movie was actually a prequel to a timeless classic released about 25 years before. The events that come after that comet hits the Earth are truly terrifying...


Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Nostalgia, Ghostbusters and the Movies

If you've been on any movie or entertainment site lately, you probably want to kill yourself because of all this Ghostbusters news. If you haven't been, I'll sum it up in the most non-wrist-slittingly-way possible: Sony, that master of franchises, wants to put out a Ghostbusters movie with an all female cast. The Internet reacted poorly as it always does. I personally just thought it was at least something different from a remake with an all male cast, which would just be contrived as hell, so eh, whatever.

But lo and behold...

I swear it's like they're just trying to spite me now.

It's the nostalgia dollar at work again. People just love stuff from when they were kids now. I'm a 20-something millennial whatever, so I can speak from experience – we all just love remembering the late 80s and early-to-mid 90s. Why? I think it's a product of the Internet, fast moving technology and what it's all doing to our poor, putty-like brains.

With the Internet, time moves faster and people are closer together. We grew up with this Internet thing foisted on us by the over-eager minds of big tech companies. With that came the ability of hindsight to things we couldn't just watch normally without a Youtube or torrents. When people my age were young, we watched shows like everyone used to – you know, on the TV and then we had to use our memories. Nostalgia! Then Youtube came along and Netflix followed and it was all a snowball effect from there – no longer did we have to rely on just thinking about things we were nostalgic about. Now we could relive it and watch it in all its glory!

Now, even though it's not that old, we're reliving that sweet nostalgia like 80 year old men discovering childhood favorite storybooks on a trip back to our childhood home before we die of cancer. I know that sounds sardonic, but really I think it's just a human thing that everyone goes through no matter the age – we all love remembering things from when we were younger. Nostalgia doesn't have a time limit. Everything in our pasts has some kind of rosy border.

The problem came when movie studios dug their pudgy fingers into that proverbial rosy-bordered nostalgic pie. As they are wont to do, they turned it from a sort of charming, somewhat happy new trend - “we can watch all our favorite Nickelodeon cartoons on a tiny screen in our bedrooms!” - into a giant corporate megalith: the remakes and reboots we have all come to loathe more and more every year.

This is always how it goes. They listen to us, they listen to the demand – not out of some kind of love for genuine art and fun, but because they see us as money-spewing machines that will churn out dollar bills at the drop of any new movie about something we used to love. That's the corporate machinery at work. Maybe at some minuscule level someone enjoyed what they were doing, but I dunno, I just get the feeling a lot of these guys have to go visit guys wearing cowboy hats in the middle of the night and get threatened with death if they don't obey what they say:

Unfortunately, this is the way it always goes – something starts off genuine, then the big bucks come in, and it becomes a corporate, controlled version of itself. So I imagine we'll probably get a live action Hey Arnold movie with kids from various teen pop acts and maybe Shailene Woodley or Ansel Elgort thrown in as a consolation prize. Or a Rugrats movie that imitates Baby Geniuses. With dialogue written by low-rent Diablo Codys. Maybe they'll make a Powerpuff Girls movie next and then make a male version of that to appease all demographics! The possibilities!

I also just think it's strange how political pretty much everything has become thanks to the Internet. I mean, people always liked to spout off about politics, and movies have always – always – been powerful tools to espouse certain viewpoints. But with the Internet, we can make anything political now! Now, everything that comes out gets scrutinized to no end and held up or beat down by increasingly polarized, extreme opinions. When the all-women Ghostbusters idea came out, people went nuts – some people were hailing it as a victory for feminism; others just beat the old dead horse of “women can't be funny” with some bitching about "feminists ruining everything" to round out the horribleness...either way, it was a circus. Rinse and repeat with the announcement of the all-male one again.

Can't this just be a fun movie? It's fucking Ghostbusters. It was a silly 1980s comedy with great comedians in the starring roles. Now, it's a big political debate. That's what the Internet does, though – it gives all these people voices and they become so loud, they dwarf the qualities of the films we're arguing about. Movies like Ghostbusters aren't so much about the movies themselves now, so much as they are political tug-o-war talking points for feminists and anti-feminists and who the fuck ever else.

Not to say you shouldn't discuss or argue about things that bother you in these films, but you shouldn't lose perspective either. By all means, talk about feminism in movies and the all-white-male demographic of Hollywood's moneymaking elite, but not everything has to be another hurdle in the battlefield for equality – as important as it is for men and women to be equal and for there to be diversity, I just don't see Ghostbusters as being any part of that equation. I guess some people do though, so...more power to you, I guess?

(Plus, the funniest part of the whole "all male Ghostbusters cast" thing is that people have apparently forgotten that they did two movies already with an all-male Ghostbuster, whether or not you're happy with an all-male cast in some new movie, it's just hilarious that you'd act like this is some unprecedented thing. I get the idea that eventually, in an Idiocracy-esque way, people are going to forget the original Ghostbusters even existed. They'll keep on arguing about the remakes, but then go "who?" when Bill Murray's or Harold Ramis's names come up.)

I'd be lying if I said I expected greatness from a new Ghostbusters movie in 2015. But that's not even the main point, and neither is the male/female cast debate.

The point is that they're only now making any new Ghostbusters movies, because now, people think everything from their childhood is God. Why didn't they make a Ghostbusters III or spin-offs back in the 90s when the original was still fresh? Because there was no market for it then. There is one now, thanks to the nostalgia craze born from the Internet. Hollywood saw dollar signs and decided they could make money off it. That's the truth. It's commercialized, focus-tested nostalgia and it's how they do everything, from superheroes to remakes of classic horror films to now, classic childhood movies and cartoons. Nothing new under this sun, folks.

Images copyright of their original owners; I own none of them.

Friday, March 13, 2015

In Your Eyes (2014)

Today I learned that Joss Whedon apparently has no grasp on reality. Why would I say that about a guy who has made some TV shows and movies I really enjoy? Well, because I just saw In Your Eyes.

Director: Brin Hill
Starring: Zoe Kazan, Michael Stahl-David

Co-written with Michelle.

This is seriously insipid, candy-fluffed nonsense that I would use harsher language for, but really it's too innocuous to deserve that; being more akin to a really goofy, dumb looking small animal stumbling around with no real special purpose or means of survival. Apparently the script was written way back in the early 90s, so I guess that gives Whedon a pass – I mean we're not talking about the later-era Whedon who wrote the excellently done romances in Angel. It was an earlier time and maybe he just hadn't fully grown into his own as a writer yet.

Buuuuuuut I still wouldn't want professional directors, actors and studios putting money into the crap I was writing 20 years ago if I was in his position!

This movie starts off with a boy and girl in different parts of the country, who have a mysterious telepathic connection. It's pretty unexplored at this point though, and we see the girl go sledding and crash into a tree. The boy feels it too, and falls out of his desk at school like he's having a seizure. Of course the teacher doesn't seem to care at first, thinking he's just horsing around. Because in a bad movie, kids horse around in class by falling out of their desks.

Then we skip ahead like 20 years, and apparently nothing interesting happened in either of their lives in between then and now? No more weird psychic, telepathic events that alerted you to things going on with your bodies that you might want to get checked out? This is really the first hole of the movie, not even five minutes in. I mean, there are TV psychics who build careers out of less evidence than you guys have!

I mean, there were just so many other possibilities you could've gone with, and you chose the worst one! It would have been more interesting to see them developing as teens and discovering their psychic connection together. But the way the movie plays it, they apparently just lived pretty normal lives until they were working in their late 20s or so and then randomly, out of nowhere, discovered their powers. Zoe Kazan's character even mentions a few times that she was in a mental hospital as a teen, so I figured maybe that had something to do with her powers, and the movie would get some real tension and conflict. But nope; it's just a non-sequitur. What a tease.

They just picked the worst, least dramatic time period for these characters' lives to set the movie up in, and as a result, I find myself just wishing one of these characters would get cancer or have a volcanic mental meltdown in the middle of a crowded subway station.

But that doesn't happen. What we get instead is basically the most over the top, exaggerated cliché of their respective lifestyles – the guy, Dylan, is an ex-con fresh out of prison who lives in a trailer and hangs out at the stereotypical small town redneck bar where of course fights break out every night. And of course, Dylan is the best looking redneck in New Mexico – because yes, real ex-cons in shitty little small towns do look like this.

He's the hottest GQ cover model to ever spend time in prison and then get out and live in a trailer park.

The girl, Rebecca, is a wealthy trophy wife socialite who hangs out at parties where they gabber on about just the most meaningless, trite, played-out crap you'd expect background characters in some kind of awful 90s sitcom caricature of a big fancy party. The women all talk about men and who's sleeping with who, because what else do women ever have to talk about? The men just talk about business, because why not? It's kind of like if Pride and Prejudice was adapted into a screenplay by Tommy Wiseau.

"Oh, you're here for our monthly pointless-exposition-spewing party!"

Another ridiculous plot point is that Dylan apparently went to prison for committing crimes with his two childhood school buddies, who he has kept in touch with and still hangs out with now. Who the fuck hangs out with kids they knew in middle school when they're in their 30s? Are you seeing what I mean here? It's all just so cartoony, corny and clich̩. If it was just little things and the actual story was meatier and more interesting, fine Рbut no, this is literally the entire movie up to now. Just a painful trudge through cliches slapping you around like a wet ferret in a hurricane.

I thought maybe it'd get better when we got to the real meat of the story – you know, maybe show off more of that old Whedon charm and wit – but no, it really doesn't. They first “connect” while she's at a shoe store, and start to see glimpses through each others' eyes. You'd think they would be shocked, alarmed and have huge questions – but nope, they start chatting like old acquaintances and ask about what cars they have.

Either she's just discovered she has telekinetic powers and can talk to a guy on the other side of the country, or she just found a good deal on shoes at this store. Either one.

It's really just strange more than anything – so they suddenly have this intrusive voice in their heads and they just go with it happily, like some strange pen pal program? I mean, the biggest chance any of us would have in this situation would be getting someone in our heads who's really annoying and we don't like talking to. But apparently these two just got super lucky.

Not to mention the powers are extremely inconsistent and don't seem to have rules. Sometimes, they activate randomly when Rebecca is least expecting it. Other times they seem to be able to turn it on and off. I'm also amazed they manage to figure out how to work their powers so quickly! They must be psychic geniuses.

And I get it; I fucking do – not everything has to be super 100% realistic. It's supposed to be a stars-crossed-lovers story. But you have to have some kind of human connection, some kind of depth. You can write the most fantastical, unbelievable things. But you have to have the human element, the relatable writing where characters act in ways you can understand. Whedon himself would master this later on, but this script just has zero emotional connection in it. So I guess this movie is kind of his sketchy demo tape in comparison – it's easier to digest when you look at it that way.

The film just drags on with scenes of the two characters attempting to emote but really just acting like robots interacting on a deserted wasteland with no human contact for three decades prior. Oh, and we get a slew of horrible, horrible songs played over "artsy" shots of the main characters just wandering around looking at nothing. Yes, please give us more music rejected from your cousin's Beatles imitation wedding band in the movie, guys! We just need more!

These scenes are as deep as a James Bond villain's pool filled with man-eating sharks!

I mean, okay, the acting is fine for what meager scraps the script gives them, and even the dialogue could be way worse – I've certainly seen more soulless verbal vomit on screen. But really it just comes down to the fact that their characters' struggles are about as substantial as Necco wafers – fluffy, insubstantial, pastel-colored pap.

Pictured: the movie. Or, Necco wafers. I forget which one.

Yes, please, endear me to the plight of the bored house-wife who could do anything she wants with her free time and copious amounts of money, but just doesn't have the imagination, so instead she hangs out with an imaginary friend in her head. I'm sure the legions of Instagram followers will be sympathetic.

And what about Dylan? Yeah he's an ex-con and struggling to find work, but he only loses the job he has because he's talking to Rebecca in his head constantly while doing work which makes him look crazy. Otherwise he seems to be OK; he has his own place to live and isn't struggling to eat. Hell, he's got beer money. I guess we're supposed to feel sorry for him because he looks out at a changing sunset for hours on end with nothing else to do.

This is as deep as a cavernous black chasm opening up to the center of the Earth that you would die screaming in if you tripped and fell into!

Oh, but there is a scene where Rebecca helps Dylan ask out some idiotic woman at that same dumb bar. He invites her over to his trailer, and tries to cook steak, which goes about as well as it ever does in movies. I remember always thinking as a kid, man, it must be hard as shit to cook anything, being that all these dumb-ass movies depicted cooking as this arcane alchemy that only a Zen master could perfect. Seriously, it really isn't as hard as movies like to pretend. You follow the fucking directions, and most of the time you'll get it right after a few times practicing, no matter what it is. But because this is a doofy romantic comedy, we get this instead:

I was really, really hoping he would just serve her steak literally on fire on a plate and go "here you go, sorry it's a little burnt!"

The ending is just more of the same crap – he has to go save her because her second rate Ralph Fiennes husband's evil switch flipped on and he locked her up in a mental asylum because he suspected she was cheating on him. Because apparently we've gone back in time to the plots of 1950s romantic telenovelas for inspiration!

It's not really an issue, though, as they help each other telepathically to get to one another, with him teaching her to pick locks so she can open the door and escape, and her giving him directions to drive to the asylum, like she's the world's prettiest-looking GPS. So this is really about as tense as a Barney cartoon's plot would get.

They have a pretty boring romp through the snow and then kiss after jumping implausibly, hilariously, into a moving train box car.

I guess they must also have super speed running powers, because I have no fucking idea how this ends without them both crushed underneath the train.
Apparently these characters have never kissed anyone before somehow, because they both look like they're trying to eat one another.

So what next? My guess is they just use their powers to see into each others' eyes while looking at one another, thus causing a rip in the time stream and sending both of their souls spiraling out of their bodies and into the abyss forever. I mean, they don't know each other that well, neither of them has any financial income and they'll probably grow to resent each other quickly due to this incredibly hasty, poorly planned elopement together. So my ending is happier, really.

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