Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Cinema Freaks LIVE: Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

(Minor spoilers in this.)

Tony and I saw Mad Max and did this a few days later. The movie was just so fucking awesome, as you've no doubt already heard from every other corner of the internet. The directing was intense and sprawling, the settings were jaw-dropping amazing, the characters were perfect for what they needed to be, there were comedic moments and dramatic moments in all the right places.

And, oh yeah, the action was absolutely astoundingly fucking good. Long, balls-out, sandblasted, fiery explosive scenes that grabbed your attention like a vicegrip. It was so refreshing to just see a good, long chase in a movie again. The mark of a great action movie is when the action and the story compliment each other. The action in this was non stop, careening, chaotic fun, and the story worked its way in through that - magnificently done. Much better than Age of Ultron where the story just stopped cold for the action scenes. I can't wait to see all the originals and to watch this one again. Holy shit, man.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Jaws: The Revenge (1987)

There's really only so much you can do with a shark killing people as the plot of your movie, and really, the first Jaws film did all of it. Eventually, after so many sequels, you just start wondering why people don't just get the fuck out of the water and go home.

Director: Joseph Sargent
Starring: Lorraine Gary, Michael Caine

Co-written with Michelle.

This was the fourth Jaws movie, limply dragging its half-dead, Alzheimer's-ridden, gout-befallen, wrinkled corpse across a field full of younger and spryer films. But before I talk about this nonsense, what did I think of the other movies?

Jaws is a classic. It hits all the right boxes from the character development to the way the story is structured, and the tale of three arguing men who are stuck in a tiny box at sea making friends before two of them are brutally murdered by a shark, is a good one. While the effect may be a bit dulled because the movie is so iconic now, that shouldn't take away from the clear talent and merit in this film.

Jaws 2 is kind of like the runty not-as-smart little brother of the first one. There are a few kinda nice scenes here and there, but it seriously drags. Also, the whole plot is just redundant as hell. The same people who saw the shark wreak havoc in the first movie seemingly all got amnesia and now are skeptical that it could happen again. It's about as believable as the worst conspiracy theories you ever heard.

Jaws 3 is an asinine film that comes off like a fourth-rate Friday the 13th film with a shark instead of the usual slasher. The setting in the Sea World amusement park is hilariously awful corporate cock-sucking on a level that would be ridiculed even now. It's like if they made a Halloween sequel where Michael went and killed people in a Walmart. Is the fantasy here that having people killed in a movie at your park would somehow draw better publicity? Not sure that's how it works, bucko.

And that brings us to this one, which is pretty funny after the previous 12 years of mishaps that someone really thought they could pull this off. Did anyone seriously look at this script and go 'yeah, sounds awesome'? I just don't know.

The movie begins with shots of a town at Christmastime, the perfect setting for a shark attack movie, where the Brody family still lives. If you're thinking you're gonna see Roy Scheider again – well, sorry, that doesn't happen. But at least we get the rest of the family! Wait, where are you going? Why are you running away?!?

And don't get me wrong – Lorraine Gary as Ellen Brody is a talented actress, and the others in the movie are fine too. But it's just not very interesting to watch them because the other Brodys were never the real focus of Jaws. Roy Scheider's Sheriff Brody was a cool character to watch because of, and solely because of, his hunt for the shark. We don't really need to see the continuing history of the Brody family after that.

So the plot begins when the younger Brody son is eaten by a shark while out on the water doing his job as a cop. Obviously, the family is crushed by this. Hell, when the other son gets there, you can see how distressed Ellen is because she's standing with her back to them outside, facing the water in an extremely cliché way. That's some real grief there. So real, you guys.

"It started raining hailstones the size of trucks, but we still didn't bring her in. She has been out there for days."
Shouldn't you be used to this by now? Geez. Get over it!

Later on, she tells the family at dinner some very troubling things that make me think she's ready to go to a nursing home. Number one is that the family should stay away from the water from now on. Well, no shit. I think we should go a step further – the whole town needs to move. I mean holy shit; three movies of sharks attacking and terrorizing them, and they still live here in this fucking town. Not to presume anything about peoples' motives, but there's got to be some kind of point where you go “okay, time to move before I get eaten by a shark.” The level of willful denial involved here is more than most serial killers need to convince themselves they're doing God's work.

The other one, which defines the film, is when she asserts very clearly that she thinks the shark is “hunting” her family for revenge. Her familiy specifically. Yeah, I remember the day in marine biology class when I learned that sharks had a capacity to want to enact revenge on people. That's just how life is – some days you're doing fine and other days, a shark wants to kill you for killing its family members. That's called the Shark Mafia, and they are ruthless motherfuckers.

She also says her husband – Sheriff Brody from the first one – died of fear of the shark. I love the delivery the actor playing the son goes with to say “Ma, he died of a heart attack!” But really, the main thing about this scene is the “fear” that killed the courageous main character of the first Jaws. I guess after two movies fighting that thing, the PTSD caught up with him. Maybe it was constipated PTSD and just took a while to come out.

But seriously – I do get what the movie was going for. They were trying to have some kind of character development here. But that's a bit difficult when Roy Scheider wasn't in the movie. Like talking about someone who left a party an hour ago, trying to convince everyone else they were cool.

The movie just kind of rambles on after that. I guess they go to the Bahamas so Ellen can heal, or something, and that's where she meets Michael Caine, the only British man in the Bahamas.

"I've been on Quaaludes ever since filming started!" 

She also continues to espouse her rational belief that one shark is out for revenge against the family by telling her granddaughter not to play on a rope, because the family needs to indulge her rampant paranoia and likely senility. The other kids around the rope are thankful for it, anyway – they're just glad that crazy white girl isn't playing with their rope anymore. Paranoid Grandma was good for that much anyway.

A lot of the rest is just Ellen and Michael Caine hangin' out. The two share a couple of nice scenes together, and the acting is fine, but again – why should I care? They're not really that good characters, and in a Jaws sequel, this isn't something I want to see. This isn't some Lifetime movie about two elderly people bonding, it's a fucking Jaws movie. Like yes...I totally needed a scene of these characters hanging out at a casino. That's what I think of when I think of Jaws.

"I'm gonna need more than this to get through the movie!"

Michael Caine also has several scenes flying a small plane, which he lets the daughter sit in his lap and pretend fly it while he does ridiculous dive bombs and stunts like a daredevil. It would have been funny if Caine's ridiculous plane stunts ended up crashing the plane. After all, any movie with a killer shark just needs more damage being done. I live for this bloodthirsty, indiscriminate carnage. What will kill the Brody family? A mad Englishman in a plane or a shark? The suspense is just killing me.

"Heh heh heh...I haven't been sober since 1963, and somehow I'm allowed to fly planes!"

Maybe if Michael Caine was the shark, in disguise, then it would be funny. But unfortunately they didn't have the budget to buy a Michael Caine suit for the shark to dress up in, so they had to nix that.

There are also scenes of Brody's son and his wife having arguments about money and how she doesn't want him to work out on the water doing science stuff anymore. Then they have sex in a tool shed in broad daylight right in front of the windows. Awesome. That scene was totally worth filming.

Does she burn his balls with that blowtorch?

After some more boring scenes in which Brody's son gets trapped underwater with the shark and somehow survives without a scratch because these movies are allergic to having any real tension, we get the climax. First there's the award Brody's wife gets on the beach for the sculpture she did. The shark wants to join in on the festivities too, and so it shows up like a big lunkhead and tries to join in by eating someone who has no connection to the Brodys.


Ellen of course sees this as a clear sign that the shark IS out to get the Brody family, and so she plays Captain Ahab and goes out alone on a boat to kill the shark. She has zero experience hunting sharks, but so what? Who needs any experience doing something that dangerous?

One wealthy, weak white lady against a man-eating shark on a mission...wait, no, it still doesn't sound like a good movie when you put it that way.

Her son finds out and teams up with a co-worker of his and Michael Caine, who was just coincidentally sort of hanging out nearby in a boat, where I'm sure he was doing copious amounts of quality British cocaine. He takes them up in his plane, and they go and find Ellen to fight the shark. It's a woefully long and boring fight scene with the shark just flailing around like a blow-up pool toy and the main characters scream like they're being castrated to make up for the lack of drama the shark brings.

The only real funny part is when the co-worker guy, who has been completely annoying for the entire film, gets eaten by the shark but later is revealed to have survived.

Eh, he's, really.

What, really? Either that guy was so asinine of a person that the shark just coughed him up whole immediately, or the shark really is just a pool toy and had no actual teeth or digestive system.

Aw, look, it's actually kinda cute.

Also, we get a bunch of scenes of Ellen Brody "remembering" all these moments lifted from the earlier films, which are shown in sepia tone, like the past always was in. Man, that's some prime-grade nostalgia for you! Movies may have colors that persuade you otherwise, but make no mistake - up until the late 1990s, the entire world was just in a permanent sepia-tone filter. Ask your parents. They might act coy and try to deny it out of respect for your fragile frame of mind, but it's true and they won't be able to deny it for long.

Fuck that, even memories from any time you weren't there were sepia toned! This movie really gets it. Also it's not weird at all that she remembers stuff that she never saw. Nope. Not at all!

This movie isn't fit to be shark food for even the lamest sharks. Its story is ridiculous from the start and the characters just aren't very interesting. The effects are bad and there are no good scares or thrills. I never got the impression anyone was terribly inspired to be making this. It strikes me mostly as a movie made just to churn out another sequel, because hey, they made three other ones, so how bad of a risk can it be? All I can say is – I'm glad we don't just get stuck with shitty summer movies like this one anymore.

Luckily, all hope is not lost, though – because Michelle and I saw a theatrical performance of an original script kinda based around Jaws. It was called Jaws: The Movie: The Musical, and it played at the Orlando Fringe Festival here in Florida. The story was about a bunch of playwriters trying to put together an idea for a musical really quick. Bereft of good ideas, they take the easy way out and make a musical about Jaws. So it's a play about a musical being made about a movie based on a book. If that isn't meta enough for you...I'll eat this review.

The whole thing was a lot of fun and very tongue in cheek. The humor was of the bawdy sort that makes most people laugh big and loud on hot summer afternoons after long work-weeks – lots of simple but effective jokes about sex and work and other such things. The actors were full of personality, and the story moved along with a bouncy verve and style that was addictive to watch. The whole thing only lasted about an hour, and I could have watched even more.

I guess it wasn't very much about Jaws itself – though there was a very entertaining musical number where one cast member played a sharks' rights advocate who was protesting the musical being made. The play was mostly just about show business in general, and the folly of hack writers and producers putting out garbage for money – one of its main motifs is “it doesn't have to be good!” as sung by the bigwig producer character. Beneath the more sophomoric humor, there was some pretty good satire going on of the mindsets of those who just churn out mediocre sequels and adaptations just to have them out, just to get money coming in.

Y'know. Like Jaws: The Revenge.

Not sure how you can actually track this down, as it was an original production just at the Fringe Festival here. But you can certainly go support your local theater in putting out cool stuff like this. Hell, it's a thousand times better than Jaws sequels at any rate.

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

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Godsend (2004)

Do you think movies have too many entertaining parts? Perhaps too many things about them that stand out, make sense and make you want to watch more? Well, if you do, have no fear – Godsend is the movie for you.

Director: Nick Hamm
Starring: Robert de Niro, Greg Kinnear, Rebecca Romijn

Co-written with Michelle.

This was actually released a year before the other shitty Robert de Niro thriller, Hide and Seek – but when I saw these movies as a kid, this was the order I saw them in, so that's how I'm reviewing 'em. It's a woefully uneventful film with all the charisma and liveliness of a hay bale after a barn fire.

We start off with what everyone always wants to see at the beginning of a film, a birthday party scene. When has watching a birthday party of people you don't know ever been entertaining? Like yeah, really, I'm stoked to watch people pretending to have a birthday party for some kid in a movie. That sounds like awesome cinema!

Godsend: it makes you not want eight year olds to have good birthday parties.

You'll notice very quickly in this that the movie's only mode of getting you invested in the characters is to show the most fluffed up, happy-crappy nonsense ever. There's no real meat – just pictures of the characters smiling and laughing. Because that's the barometer for how life works...either you're happy without a care in the world, or your son is dead. Those are literally the only two options.

Because, yup, in the next scene, Adam dies. His mom, played by Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, takes him out to buy a new pair of sneakers. While he's outside playing, a bicycle implausible swerves for no reason in the path of a car, which then swerves to avoid the bike, and ends up hitting Adam, killing him instantly.

You'd have to be a really terrible driver to actually do this. I mean, like, blind-deaf-mute kind of driving.

The next few scenes are just the parents, Paul and Jessie, grieving because, I presume, those shoes were really expensive, dammit!

"Damn you, Nike products! My wallet is crying even more than I am!"

Luckily for them, at the funeral, they run into an old professor of Jessie's, played by Robert de Niro. He really came prepared, as he's already got a whole spiel planned about how his new science lab can clone their dead child and bring him back to life.

"You can trust me because I am wearing a suit and tie."

Paul and Jessie spend an astonishingly short amount of time discussing this – I guess Paul is a bit on the fence at first, but once he watches some more blandly cheerful home movies of the family smiling and laughing, he's on board for this abomination against nature.

And I get it – losing a kid is a devastating thing. But the movie just doesn't portray it as any kind of big deal – there's really no depth or understanding of the grief. They're just sad because they can't make more happy-pill-addled home videos of people laughing and smiling. We don't know anything about this family or about the kid, and the movie just rushes through all their grief in favor of bullshit thriller junk. Like so many films in the mid-2000s, it exploits human tragedy in favor of shocking plot twists and cash-grab thrills with zero substance, which basically makes it an instant zero-star film for me.

Clearly the movie was trying to convey sadness - that's obvious. But it's just not well done. We don't get any real insight into these characters and their motives just by showing us extremely generic videos of them laughing together.

Okay, so there's some half-assed dialogue thrown in about how she can't have any more kids, or some shit like that – so grieve naturally, and adopt a kid then. Fucking hundreds of people do that every day. I get that, given the chance, it might be tempting to try and bring your kid back – but come the fuck on. There were no red flags given by the creepy, mysterious old man who showed up at the funeral and told you he could clone your dead son? This merited no skepticism?

The most trustworthy face in the universe, ohhh yeah.

But hey – I'm sure it'll be fine. When has something this shady, dangerous and insane ever turned out bad in a movie? While you're at it, go give your credit card information to that guy in the ratty coat who's been standing on a street corner all day and says he has good financial advice for you. I'm sure he'll help.

They go through an overly long and boring scene of getting the wife artificially inseminated again, and after the baby is born, she thanks God for it. Yeah, fuck all those doctors (and the probably-illegal scientific developments) that made this possible. Thank God instead.

But really, I was just hoping the baby would come out like this:

What a beautiful hellspawn abandoned by nature...

But whatever, they do it and then eight years go by and their new genetic abomination of a child is at the same age their old son was when he died. They also had to move to some remote location in a beautiful country home, because all of these stupid movies always have to have super nice, clean looking homes that look like nobody has ever lived there. I mean, why bother making any aspect of your movie relatable?

And how did this kid get so many friends again? I think we need some plausible scriptwriting here – just remove most of the other kids and have him eating cake alone.

No, we don't need any more birthday scenes, you hacks!

The rest of this film sinks into levels of banality I never knew were possible. We get tons of lame-ass jump scares where the movie goes quiet for a second and then some loud sound happens. There are also a bunch of idiotic dream sequences where Adam dreams a bunch of kids in school are making fun of him, and also another one where he's attacking someone with a hammer. Eh, it happens – this is pretty much all a metaphor for puberty.

There's also a few times when he acts weirdly, like when he gets in a swinging contest with a bunch of bullies at his school – because you know, bullies have contests to see who can swing the highest in between atomic wedgies and swirlies in the bathroom. It's just part of the bullying vocabulary. But yeah, after he falls off the swing, he spits in his teacher's face.

Oh, and there's also the tiny little detail that he kills that bully later on by shoving him into a frozen lake. I'm not even being sarcastic – it really is just played off like a tiny little detail, given no weight or drama behind it. He killed a kid? So what! He's having dreams about hammers! THAT'S the important thing!

This is a metaphor for the fact that you should turn this movie off and go outside instead of watching any more.

Eventually, Paul and Jessie, being geniuses, figure out that not everything is quite right. Really, guys? Genetically cloning your dead child in a secret hush-hush experiment where the scientist who told you about it swore you to secrecy ISN'T a trustworthy thing? Gee, only took you almost ten fucking years to figure that out. Nothing gets past you guys. You're real Sherlock Holmeses, the both of you.

Well, I say both of them, but really Jessie is trying to cling to the hope that things will be okay, so it's really just Paul who's actively suspicious. The two of them have a seemingly endless slew of conversations in the last two acts of the movie that all kinda go like this:

PAUL: There's obviously something wrong with this kid because we cloned him and now he's having weird dreams and acting strange!

JESSIE: No, he's our son and we have to protect him!

PAUL: You're crazy!

It's like two people with Alzheimer's forgetting they already had the same argument before.

That's it – just that mind numbing conversation, repeated enough until you want to claw your eardrums out with a spork. Jesus fuck this is a boring movie. They take an hour and forty minutes for the movie, and most of it could be dialed down to one two-minute scene. I don't know if you're keeping score, but yeah, that's called trash filmmaking from the dumpster.

So, I guess if you even care, they figure out that Adam has some other kid haunting his mind, Zachary Clark. Paul then goes out and finds this old housekeeper lady who knew the real Zachary Clark from years ago. I love how this lady was apparently just ready to drop everything she was doing to talk to this idiot about a story that has obviously traumatized her. Like, she was just waiting all these years for some dumbass to come to her door and ask about it. It's basically like she doesn't exist except when exposition is needed.

"I only exist for this one scene, in a vacuum, to spew exposition. After the scene is over, my non-existent character disappears into thin air, never to be seen again."

The story is, I suppose, that Zachary Clark was bullied by kids at school, so one day he killed his mom with a hammer and then burnt down the house, or something like that. I guess in some reality that might make sense, but it isn't mine. We also find out – dun dun DUN – that de Niro was the father of Zachary Clark and has been trying to clone him.

I get that it's trying to be a plot twist, but it's a pretty poorly done one, with how much plot they tried to cram into that very short few minutes, like a dozen Twinkies into the mouth of a fat Dachsund. I get the idea the writers just fell asleep writing the rest of the movie and then the producer just came in, scribbled some nonsense on a napkin, stapled it to the rest of the script, and then turned that in to be filmed.

If you can believe it, de Niro and Paul get into a fight in a church in which a fire is started. De Niro leaves and we never fucking see him again – oh, except for this newspaper clipping in which front-page news was devoted to saying “No new information found on disappeared scientist.” Fucking brilliant, that is.

Paul then goes and saves his wife from being killed by Adam/Zachary, and talks Adam down just by saying a few nice words. Wow. That's pretty much the lamest and most anticlimactic ending this movie could have had – what if other horror movies had that as the climax? Michael Myers in Halloween talked down by Dr. Loomis saying “it's okay, you're a nice person.” That would have improved it tenfold.

"Please, just stop acting crazy. I want to get a paycheck without having to emote in this crap movie." 

The actual ending is when they're moving into yet a third home to try and start over again – but it turns out, as we see in a rather blunt shot of Adam being pulled into the closet by “Zachary.” Awesome – it's like the Psychology for Dummies version of Session 9. Thanks so much for that.

This film is just the kind of thing you'd pick out of the bargain bin box at Walmart when you literally have zero other ideas for what you want to see. And then you'd just wish you had forgone watching anything and just stared at a wall for an hour and forty minutes. At least in the latter case, you'd be able to think in solitude without the idiotic dribble of the movie's story constantly annoying you. Goddammit, I hate this shit. It's just so fucking bad, and every scene just hurts me.

It really says something that this movie was such a low point in de Niro's career – I mean, fuck, even the one where he cross-dresses was better than this.

Yeah – safe to say, I'll be sticking to Taxi Driver, Goodfellas and Heat next time, thank you very much. I'd rather remember why de Niro used to be a legend instead. As for this movie, well...

That about sums it up.

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

Cinema Freaks LIVE: Ex Machina (2015)

Here's another thing we did. This time, my friend Tony and I looked at Ex Machina, a strange sci fi film about a kid and an android interacting as part of an experiment. We found it a clever movie with some good twists, some subtle undermining of the usual stereotypes, and well done characters. Director Alec Garland has a good feel for ambiance and atmosphere, and there are a lot of beautiful settings and creepy, desolate atmospheric moments to go along with the story - accentuating it lightly like frosting on a cake.

There were a few silly moments, and maybe the movie tried too hard at times to cram in too many different genres and elements. However, I'd personally still take that over a movie that didn't do enough.

See you guys next time!

Friday, May 8, 2015

The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Black Widow and Sexism

The new Avengers movie is out, and people are angry about stuff again – more specifically the character Black Widow, and whether or not her portrayal is sexist in the movie. So, is it? Well, let's talk about that.

For those of you not in the know, I'll try and sum up peoples' problems – basically, in the movie, Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and the Hulk/Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) have struck up a romance between films. The first thing we really see Black Widow do is touch the Hulk's hand and help him turn back into Banner. A lot of her role in this movie is interacting with Banner. There's one scene where the two have a conversation about how they can't have a normal life together, because they can't have kids.

Now, I'm not one to try and presume anything about people with such vastly different life experiences than me. If you thought this was a sexist portrayal and they could have done it differently, I'm fine with that. I just didn't see it that way.

The thing nobody is saying about this is that Black Widow before this was a pretty generic character – she was the stoic badass tough chick with very little else to her. I know Joss Whedon wrote some great tough chicks in Buffy, but they were full, three dimensional characters, with worries, fears, individual thoughts and realistic personalities. To me it always seemed like Black Widow was just a cardboard cutout of a character, although Johansson did a good job portraying her especially in the second Captain America flick.

Now, in this new one, she does kinda have a character – she's in love with Bruce Banner. And no, a woman character being in love with a guy is not the only way to show character. But the way she acts in this movie is refreshingly honest and down to Earth for a Marvel flick. You can believe her character and you feel sympathy for her, as cheesy and simple as the romance is – it works. I can see why people think it's sexist for a female character to be based solely around being in love with a man, but frankly, Bruce Banner doesn't have any other plot in The Avengers 2 besides being in love with her, either. It goes both ways.

If it were a much older movie and Banner was portrayed as the uncaring, stoic, manly-man character who was complex and full-bodied, while Black Widow was portrayed as a wishy-washy emotional female, then I'd probably be on the other side of the argument. But as is, it's just a fairly decent portrayal of two people caring about each other.

The one scene people are complaining the most about is when Banner says he can never have a normal life, have kids, etc. She matches him and says she can't have kids because she was a trained assassin and they sterilized her. The line is “you still think you're the only monster on this team?” It comes off to me as two people trying to relate to one another and connect – it was fine. Some people, I guess, thought that scene suggested Black Widow's character was only wanting kids, etc – stereotypical, cliche woman stuff, which seemed sexist and outdated to them.

What people overlook in all of this is that being in love and wanting kids and everything IS realistic, and it can make for a good, interesting story. It brings out the softer sides of characters – in a superhero flick, that's pretty important. While some writers can certainly come off as sexist by not fleshing out their women characters enough, I think Whedon did it fine within the constraints of Marvel Studios' ridiculously anal-retentive control game over their movies.

So what exactly is the root of the problem here? I just think sometimes people can take their eye off the ball Рthey make it more about politics than about character, and their sight can be a bit too narrow. A lady can certainly have a love interest and her character can be sad when the guy is in trouble or whatever else Рthat's a human emotion and it adds depth. Trying to make it so women can only be tough, bad ass, stand-alone sirens of war who don't need men is just tipping the scale too far in the other direction from the old clich̩ of the weak-willed, subservient women characters of the 60s and 70s. You've got to have a medium. At some point, you just have to quit worrying about it and write the best character you can.

There's also the Internet mentality of “well, if you're not X, you must be Y” - like, if Whedon didn't write the most complex, individual, independent and unique woman in a movie ever (every time he does something, too), he's a misogynist – like it can only be one or the other. There's just no grey area with the Internet, and in everything in real life, there's tons of grey area. People aren't just one thing or the other. Not everything has to advance the same single agenda or else it's the opposite of that agenda. That's kind of a childish way to look at the world.

If you're only writing one type of character, chances are, you're a bad writer. Women, like men, can be sensitive, they can be tough, they can be easy to anger or they can be chill and relaxed – they're human beings, and a good writer pays more attention to the human emotion of a character rather than trying to fill a quota by making X number of characters whatever personality type.

And it's a tough thing to really balance out and measure – how do you balance out the expectations of an audience that wants equality, but with so many different ideas of how to do it? You also have to take into account that, with a movie like this, where a lot of kids are watching - some of them young girls - you need to have a good role model type of character. It's a sensitive issue, and I can see why people want to talk about it and debate it.

There's obviously a problem in Hollywood with having good, well written ladies in the movies. There are some, especially when you get down to more independent films – it's not an epidemic or a total void of quality. But in terms of real mainstream, well done female heroines, we could definitely always do better. So if that's your argument, well, I don't have a problem with that – just put away the torches and the pitchforks on Whedon. I mean, damn, he isn't that bad. 

And listen - everyone, and I mean everyone, is allowed to have some opinion on this. Our personal experiences shape our viewpoints on everything, social issues, politics, etc. Some people, women or men, may see the movie as sexist or whatever else, and maybe they're not entirely wrong. But do you have to shut people out who disagree with you? Feminists telling a bunch of straight white dudes to shut up are just as wrong as misogynistic assholes telling women their problems aren't big deals - they're all wrong. Just, fuck, don't be a dick about it. You don't have to have a final, line-in-the-sand answer to every question. Sometimes viewpoints are still evolving and you don't have to be sure of everything.

With that said, though; yeah, we really do need a Black Widow stand alone movie. Get on that, Marvel, you bastards.

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Hide and Seek (2005)

Mental health is a tough thing to tackle in movies. Some of them get it right, some of them do it poorly, and others seem to not realize that they're about as sensitive at tackling the subject as an actor using blackface to talk about Rosa Parks. Guess which one this movie is!

Director: John Polson
Starring: Robert De Niro, Dakota Fanning

Co-written with Colin and Michelle.

Holy fuck this movie is bad. I saw this like, ten years ago now, and hated it then too, and I think I may even hate it more now. This was one of several absolute duds Robert de Niro did in the mid 2000s, and it's just painful. I guess it begins pretty innocuously with a mother saying goodnight to her daughter Emily, played by Dakota Fanning. I'm sure nothing bad is gonna happen to the mom when she says she loves her daughter.

But of course it does, because any movie that throws in non sequitur lines like that always has bad shit happen to the characters. In this case, she gets, erm, how should I put it? Ah yes - “Dexter Season 4'd.”

Clearly this was all the result of a deranged and oddly specific killer who always kills married women in bathtubs. There's no other option.

Why do all of these limp-dick thriller flicks have characters taking baths in such nice tubs anyway? I wish I had one with the candles around it and shit. If it was a slasher movie, though, it'd be a girl in her 20s in the shower. That's actually the barometer of how you tell what genre of horror you're watching. If a slightly older woman takes a bath, you're watching a psychological thriller. If a hot chick takes a shower with the camera angled down, it's a slasher. Just the rules, guys.

You can tell what type of shitty movie you're watching from how women bathe in it, which is pretty creepy and weird when you think about it.

We then fast forward through the funeral because fuck that, who cares? No, now it's time for them to do what they do in every shitty ass horror movie – go up to some kind of mountain retreat in a small podunk town to “heal.” It works for a Stephen King novel because he can at least write good characters. In this movie, it's just more nice house porn – ooh, look at all these nice furniture items! Those must have cost a lot of money at Ikea!

I wish I had that desk. That's the nicest thing I can say about the entire movie.

Robert de Niro plays the grieving father, David. Well, grieving, as in just kind of bored and annoyed looking throughout all of this. He's terrible in this; about as exciting as watching a sea algae try to emote. What happened to him? Did all the charisma and power get sucked out of him with a vacuum cleaner?

Oh, and I guess the story, if you even care, is that little Emily keeps on apparently doing weird things in the house like writing on the walls of the bathtub in blood, and blaming it on an imaginary friend named Charlie. I guess this is normal for de Niro's character, as he never thinks to send her to therapy in this.

Yup, you read right – he doesn't take her to therapy. Even through all the weird, traumatizing shit that happens in this, he just sticks to his guns and keeps her out there alone in that big house. No talking to anyone, no therapy, nothing. Jack shit. The funniest part is that HE HIMSELF is supposed to be a therapist in this movie! That's his character's occupation! And you're telling me he doesn't think it's a good idea to have her talk to someone about her mother's death and get through it healthily? Bull fucking shit.

"The way she's sitting motionless in a cliche way staring out a window like this is some kind of Lifetime movie about a mental patient really makes me think she is psychologically okay."

But no, I guess hanging out in an empty house and letting your daughter just run around outside doing nothing is good too. There's a scene early on where David is walking with the two guys showing him the house, for like a minute or two around the corner of it, and they lose Emily. She's standing around in the same spot, but the fact that David took his eyes off her for that long should have been a warning sign that he's as good a parent as Casey Anthony was, really.

"Hey, where's your daughter, David?"
"What daughter? I'm just walking along here, without a care in the world! Ha ha ha!"
"You're a disgrace to the very concept of parenting, you slime!"

There are a bunch of weird-ass scenes where David has dreams of a masquerade ball, like an Eyes Wide Shut party I guess, except with all the sexual energy of a juvenile detention center. Then he wakes up and it's 2:06 a.m. exactly. It comes off like the let his seven year old child watch Jacob's Ladder and then contribute to the script.

Instead of orgies and weird masks, they just got a bunch of gold balloons from the dollar store. I mean c'mon guys, not even a variety of colors for us to look at? Pffffftttttttt.
"Ah yes, 2:06, my favorite time ever..."

The rest of the movie's first two acts are taken up by a seemingly never-ending parade of red herrings that march through like lemmings on their way off a cliff. Hey, you never know! Any of them could be the killer! It's good writing, really!

There's the two neighbors, with the wife who acts really nice and neighborly and the husband who is the kind of guy who sits next to little girls he doesn't know in a creepy manner and remarks about how beautiful they are:

Apparently they had a child who died, so Emily reminds them of their own child. But it's still not really that interesting or well done of a plot...

Then there's Elizabeth Shue, who plays a woman named Elizabeth – what a stretch that must have been for her.

"Yup, I'm in this movie! Really!"

She has a daughter who she brings over to play with Emily. Emily, being a true friend, does this to the daughter's doll, while talking in a really creepy voice about how bad things will happen.

That's never mentioned again, by the way – the daughter doesn't show up again, but Shue never mentions it to David and David never talks to Emily about it. It's cool though. Disfiguring dolls and talking creepily about how bad things happen is just the normal way little girls deal with tragedy.

There's also Creepy Bearded Man, who shows up at 2 a.m. just to give David the keys to some of the other rooms in the house, because he's apparently leaving for Canada with his wife. No explanation is ever given for why, and we never see him again. It's just an incredibly random, out of nowhere scene.

I'm guessing he committed some heinous crime and is now fleeing the country to escape the law. That's what I'm going with and it does make the film slightly more entertaining. Slightly.

But yeah, a large majority of the film is just David and Emily playing off one another so poorly I'm surprised the crew wasn't falling asleep filming it. And the psychology is just bad, really bad. There really is just a shitload of excuses made for her behavior in this – the writing on the bathroom wall continues appearing, Emily keeps blaming Charlie, and David just keeps shrugging it off. At one point a dead cat is found in the bathtub, with all signs pointing towards Emily as the one who did it.

Just another normal part of the grieving process.

But does that faze David at all? Nope! Not in the least. I mean, it does at least get him on the phone with his hot therapist friend played by Famke Janssen. But even after she comes out in person and tells him that Emily needs professional help, he still doesn't do it. He says he'll wait two more weeks and see if she gets better. Two weeks?! I guess you really want to see how many more animals she can kill, huh?

And I guess these drawings don't signify a child in need of therapy either:

"Wow, my daughter really can't draw!"

For those of you watching this who think 'Jesus, how long till someone dies and he still doesn't take her to therapy?', well, Elizabeth comes over later. She finds out David isn't home and yet hangs out with Emily and chats like they're old friends over a cup of tea. For those of you who aren't paying attention – this is a grown woman just chatting it up with a nine year old girl. What the hell kind of person acts like that? No normal adult would do this! “Hey, I'll just come over and hang out with your nine year old daughter! Maybe play some hide and seek or something!” “Sure, man, any time!”

And yeah, that is what happens – Elizabeth agrees to play hide and seek with Emily and “Charlie” the imaginary friend. Because the writers of this movie are about as attentive to realistic human behavior as a space alien seeing Earth for the first time. Fortunately, an unseen killer leaps out of the closet and shoves Elizabeth out the window, killing her instantly.

David wakes up from his almost surely alcohol fueled sleep and finds the police at the door, asking about Elizabeth's disappearance as they found her car nearby. He tells them he hasn't seen her, then finds her dead body upstairs in the bathroom. You'd think this would finally be the point where he gets the police involved, but no, we're building up to a TWIST at the end! So, you know, nothing has to make sense.

David mostly just shouts like a geriatric person lost at Walmart. He puts on a yellow rainslicker to go outside and goes and buries the body. Then he goes inside and finds a bunch of boxes, unopened, full of stuff he thought he'd been using this whole time. This...somehow leads him to the revelation that he killed his wife because she cheated on him at that party he kept dreaming about all movie long:

Maybe she cheated on you because you're the kind of weirdo who gets a split personality when she cheats on you.

Wow. That's fucking amazing psychology you're using there, movie! His wife cheated on he killed her and several other people! Makes sense to me when you didn't bother to give him any other character or explore his disease at all. Hell, why bother? If you have a split personality, you probably killed people already and don't know it. Too bad for you, sucker. Guess you're fucked.

So, of course, like every other shitty ass movie like this, he then goes on a killing spree. He kills the sheriff, because in every horror and thriller movie without a brain, the cops have no purpose but to get axed off in the climax because they apparently aren't good at their jobs. Oh, and there's also a dumb scene where he plays hide and seek with Emily while hunting for her. Actually it's not even hide and seek - he's shouting about Marco Polo half the time. That's right; he can't even get the right stupid kids' game to shout about coinciding with the movie's title.

"Here's...Jimmy? I dunno. I'm old and bad at this."

If you think it's sad that a great actor like de Niro has been reduced to shouting "Marco Polo" while trying to kill a little girl - and failing, even at that - well, you're right. It is sad. I don't have a joke here. I just think that's really fucking sad.

Anyway, he gets stuck in a random Pan's Labyrinth-esque cave on the property (just go with it; the movie is almost over at this point), and gets shot down by the lady therapist, who showed up somewhere in between the ridiculousness of the last few scenes.

Fast forward to some time in the future, and Emily now lives with the therapist, and goes to school. But she drew a picture of her with two heads, so ooh, that must mean she has multiple personalities now or whatever. Because I guess multiple personalities are kind of like a hereditary thing – if you have them, your kids probably will too and it will be like a growing genetic tree-chart of serial-killing multiple personalities. Hooray for nonsense!

And she's still a terrible artist!

My favorite part is how she apparently still didn't get any therapy or counseling! Both her parents are dead? Fuck it, just send her back to school. She's living with a therapist now after all. So she'll be fine.

This whole thing is full of bad characters, dumb mid-2000s thriller cliches like bad jump scares and pointless red herrings, and of course the absolute pits of awfulness, the psychology behind the 'twist.' No, dumb mid-2000s thrillers – having multiple personalities doesn't make you a fucking serial killer. That was literally never a good twist. It's shit – it's the kind of thing a moron would write because he wants to get cheap shock-tactic scares from middle schoolers. It is garbage, sewer slime, just trash all around. It is about as scary as a Sunday School Bible reading session.

I mean, when has anyone in real life ever not realized they were a killer for that long? Sure, sometimes you get deluded psychopaths or whatever, but most of the movies that pull this shitty twist are just too pussy to actually make the main character aware of what he's doing. Make de Niro know he's a killer and just trying to hide it from the cops. Why not? Because you're afraid it'll be controversial? I mean, I can't see any other reason...surely you can't actually think you're being smart in what you did with this movie.

Surely not. Heh heh heh...

...that would be ridiculous.

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