Thursday, December 17, 2009

Home Movie

Here there be minor spoilers. Ye be warned.

A pastor and his wife have two adorable demon children, and they've got the home videos to prove it.
The dad is the definition of the word goober. The mom is a child psychologist who tries to be, like, 1980s sitcom mom. Jack and Emily almost never speak, choosing instead to express themselves by throwing silverware to the floor, biting kids at school and crucifying the cat.
As with every other "found footage" type movie I've seen, there's one character who just can't stop filming, in this case Goober Dad. The mom uses the camera a little bit, mostly when she's being Child Psychologist Lady and speaking very, very softly to prove that she's professional. Apparently you're not supposed to be able to hear what professionals are saying.
The problem with this movie and, indeed, with all slow burn movies, is that it's a slow burn. Sure, maybe it's more effective than if the movie started with the kids murdering folks (or whatever) but it's so damn predictable:
1) everything seems normal other than the fact that one thing is off (in this case, the kids are abnormally quiet)
2) the one thing that was a little off becomes far more noticeable (the kids throw rocks and kill pets)
3) something crazy happens (the kids have bite marks all over themselves)
4) things come to a head (Mom medicates the kids, Dad exorcises them)
5) the calm before the actual storm (meds and de-demonizing works; kids befriend school chum who they attacked earlier)
6) the storm (the kids weren't "fixed" after all)
Sure, the storm is awesome once you get there, and it would probably be a stupid storm if you didn't have to sit through all that other crap.
The problem is, I've seen all the other crap and I know what's going to happen and it's a trial to sit through all of it when I can already tell you the sequence of events.
Why has nobody tried to reinvent the slow burn horror movie yet?

End of line.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Larger Than Live In 3D

I don't feel entirely right reviewing a movie I didn't actually finish, but I saw enough to know how I feel about it.
Basically, it was mostly a Dave Matthews Band concert film, with opening bands Gogol Bordello and Ben Harper And Relentless7. If I had known, going in, exactly what the setup was going to be, I would have waited and rented it.
Gogol Bordello played two songs. Ben Harper And Relentless7 played three. The rest of the movie was Dave Matthews Band. I didn't know that. I thought each band would be given an equal amount of screen time.
So my disappointment stems from the fact that I didn't know enough about it going in.
I wasn't familliar with Ben Harper And Relentless7. They're not my kind of music. I knew going in I'm not big on Dave Matthews Band. It makes me tired and grouchy and he looks like Jeremy Piven and das ist just nicht mein bier.
And, honestly, I have no idea where the hell Gogol Bordello was even supposed to fit into this movie. Maybe because, like Dave Matthews Band, they have a violin player? (His name is Sergei. We love him.) Because they're a multicultural band and Dave Matthews is from South Africa? Or was maybe Dave Matthews a fan and requested that they be one of his opening acts?
I love Gogol Bordello. They're amazing to see in concert because they're so alive. I can't think of a better way to describe it. I do not know how to be unhappy when I'm listening to their music, and seeing them perform adds to the glorious, unadulterated joy. It was hard to not get up and dance all over the theater.
The second they were gone, the energy died. Ben Harper And Relentless7 just stood there, playing their generic bluesy mid-90s style rock. The drummer made me laugh because he had a severe case of Drummer Face, but I can't say I enjoyed them at all. It's a bad sign when I can't remember your music but I can remember laughing at your drummer.
We left after four Dave Matthews Band songs. If I had been alone I might have stuck it out (or left the second Gogol Bordello left the stage, depending on my mood at the time) but my mom had had enough, and I can't say I blame her. He wasn't lively or interesting, either. He at least acted like he was trying to dance, but he wasn't the living embodiment of his music. Actually, maybe he was: they were both pretty boring. The point is, I don't know how the movie ended. I don't think Gogol Bordello came back.
So, yeah. I don't know how they ended up in this movie, and I really wish there had been more of them.
It was very obvious that the songs were taken from, at least, the middle of their set. They played Start Wearing Purple and Think Locally Fuck Globally (which I will get to in a minute) but at the start of the movie Eugene was already shirtless and drenched in sweat. They'd obviously been playing for a while. It was the most abrupt beginning the movie could have possibly had.
And then there was the matter of their song choices. Nothing wrong with either of those songs; I love them both. The thing is, the movie's rated PG.
Let me ask you something:
If you're making a concert movie and you've got an entire set by a band to pick material from, and if the movie you're making is going to be rated PG, would you pick, as one of the two songs by this particular band, would you pick the song that not only has the word "fuck" in the title, but is said about every thirty seconds in the song itself?
There were a lot of odd little pauses in the song where nobody said anything, even though their mouths were clearly saying something. It makes me wonder what the people in the audience who were unfamilliar with the song thought.
It makes me wonder what they called the song in the end credits.
I just didn't wonder hard enough to sit through Dave Matthews in order to find out.

End of line.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dethklok at the Hollywood Palladium, November 19, 2009

I got to the concert late. Those of you who know me (hi Mommy!) know that I don't deal well with being late. At all. So that was a hideous, horrible tragedy that ended in me not getting to stand in the front row. Darn the luck. (I really need to learn to control my not-being-on-time panics.)
Last year there were Dethklok necklaces for sale, which I stupidly didn't buy. Now I not only can't find one online, but they weren't selling any at the merchandise table. It's like they never existed. But, because I stood in that line for way longer than necessary it would have been dumb not to buy something. I bought a wristband. Now my right wrist will be warmed by the power of Klok.
I guess there were two opening bands and two headliners. I missed one of the openers completely. The second (whose name I don't know) looked, from where I was standing, as though Johnny Rotten, my friend Amanda's brother and twin Rob McElhennys formed a metal band. They sounded something like this:
A lot of the audience seemed to really enjoy them but I didn't really get it. I was amused at how ridiculous they seemed to me. I guess this is why I don't go to a lot of metal shows (that and my ears are still ringing a little bit).
Mastodon were the first co-headliner and they made me sleepy. I don't think that was their desired effect. Again, the crowd seemed to be really into them, but I just couldn't get excited.
The thing is, I have a Mastodon album (Leviathan) and I really like it. It's heavy and melodic and it's about Moby Dick. It's totally awesome.
Last night they only played one song from Leviathan, but I didn't recognize it. I only knew it was from that album because of the painting of Moby Dick on the screen behind them. So, based on that one song I have to assume that Mastodon weren't very good live. Maybe if I knew all of their music (I think most of what they played was from their new album) I'd have thought they were great, but I had nothing familiar to latch onto and all the songs blended into each other and sounded the same to me.
After Mastodon finished the guy who had been standing to my left went away and a girl and her boyfriend moved into his place.
Then Dethklok came on and I turned into a yelling, screaming, singing, bouncing, devil-horns-raising fangirl machine. I was actually a little worried that I may have been annoying the people around me, but I'm never going to see them again so what do I care?
I picked a good spot in the back to stand and I had a clear view of the stage. Brendon Small is glorious and the rest of the band is also quite wonderful (although I didn't watch them much; I was too busy staring at Brendon).
I only have one complaint, which is funny considering a few days ago I told my brother "Since they're promoting the new album they probably won't play anything from the first album, which sucks because I want to hear Hatredcopter."
Hatredcopter was the third (I think?) song they played, and the first of many songs from the first album. I actually think they played more from Dethalbum than Dethalbum II, and that is my complaint.
I have two absolute favorite songs on Dethalbum II and they only played one of them (The Gears; which was glorious, although I wish more people had screamed along with "We fear not our mortality; we'll serve to the best of our ability; we give our lives for our masters; we vow to smite our enemies." I felt like I was the only one).
My other favorite song on Dethalbum II is Murmaider II: The Water God.
They played Murmaider, which is a good song but I liked it better when it was a throwaway joke in the second episode of the show. That moment in the series is less funny now that Murmaider is a real song. Conversely, The Water God is a brilliant, gorgeous and far superior song and they totally didn't play it at all.
Near the end of the show Brendon talked to the audience as Nathan, Pickles and Skwisgar, which was hilarious (even he thought so; why is it very annoying when most comedians laugh at their own material, but when Brendon Small or Eugene Mirman laughs at themselves it's completely acceptable and kind of adorable? Me and my double standards). He told us that Los Angeles is the most brutal city in the world and that we were all out of work actors. Then they played Fansong. (Fansong is about how much Dethklok hates their fans.)
Then Brendon (as Brendon) thanked the audience and introduced the band and that was the end of the show.
Remember the couple standing next to me who I worried I may have annoyed? They both shook my hand after the show for "having good energy." (They must not have been standing anywhere near me while Mastodon was playing.) They were both really nice and not at all irritated by my exuberance.
I bought a bottle of water from the bar, managed to get outside and did something I had wanted to do when I was in New York but never got the chance to: bought a hot dog from a street vendor. You know what? It was delicious.
Then I sat on the hood of my car, drank my water, ate my hot dog and read The Haunting Of Hill House for about forty minutes while I waited for the kajillions of other cars leaving the parking lot to clear out.
Now my throat hurts from screaming and life is good.

End of line.

The Prisoner

Now, I'm not talking about the original Patrick McGoohan series that I love so much (although I can assure you it will be mentioned ad nauseum). I'm talking about the new one.
I don't even know where to begin.
All of the things that make it "The Prisoner" could easily be modified or taken out completely.
And really, that's most of what I have to say about it: If it hadn't been a The Prisoner remake it would have been pretty good.
What should have happened was the writers should have been "inspired by The Prisoner" but changed around the few things they took from it and given it a different name (and never ever mentioned The Prisoner anywhere outside of IMDB trivia). Then it would have been an interesting little science fiction miniseries.
Because taking on the title The Prisoner is a lot to live up to. There was no way in hell this miniseries could be that good. Why sink yourself by forcing people to compare you to one of the greatest television series of all time?
Good job, geniuses, you suck.
Also, I was told that one of the main plot twists was stolen from Finder. I don't read Finder, so I'm taking her word for it, but I'm honestly not surprised. I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the other plot twists were ripped off from other places as well.
Sigh. So there that is.
I don't agree with giving Number Six a real name (and honestly, Michael? How lazy are you people?). And I don't agree with this particular Number Six being the protagonist.
Jim Caviezel is no Patrick McGoohan, I can tell you that much. I'd never seen Jim Caviezel in anything before this and I have to say, I don't like him. I don't think it was the character that was bothering me, I think it was him as an actor that I didn't like.
'Cause if you boil it down to the bare characteristics, this Number Six was kind of the same guy: argumentative and rebellious and sure of himself.
Patrick McGoohan plays that guy, you root for him. You think he's awesome, you want him to win!
Jim Caviezel plays that guy and all of a sudden I'm sitting there saying "Who's this jerkass? Get over yourself, dude. Quit bitching." (I have the horrible feeling that if I had seen The Passion Of The Christ I'd have been sitting there saying "Yeah, kill that cocky asshole!" Seriously, how the hell does a smarmbag like that get to be Jesus?)
Ian McKellen, on the other hand, was as charming as ever and I was all for Number Two winning. Bring it on, Ian! You break that jerk's spirit!
Then they added a romantic subplot. What the flugh?! No!
I know, I know, this isn't the original series, but whatever. The original series made a very strong point to have no romance. There are a couple of episodes where girls have crushes on Number Six, but one of those girls was brainwashed and the other was working for The Village the whole time.
The only actual "romance" in the show was in Do Not Forsake Me, O My Darling, which I don't consider a real episode (if there's no Patrick McGoohan it isn't a real episode; in that one they put Number Six's brain in another guy and send him out of The Village to run an errand for them; dumb).
This new The Prisoner relies heavily on Number Six falling in love with two different girls over the course of its six hours. That's not right.
And one of the girls was cute but the other is completely weird faced. Number Two's son was pretty weird faced, too. What the heck? Why is everyone in The new Village unpleasant to look at?
My complaints are scattered and not at all cohesive.
The point is that I didn't like it but I probably would have if they hadn't insisted on calling it The Prisoner.

End of line.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dracula: The Un-Dead

Here there be spoilers. Ye be warned.

Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker's great grandnephew, has written an "official sequel" to the original novel Dracula. I'm worried that it's ruined the original novel for me.
Here's why: he took everything interesting out of it. He turned Dracula into some wangsty Twilight-style vampire. Turns out Dracula was a good guy all along (who only drinks the blood of animals, rapists and murderers) and was just trying to stop Countess Elizabeth Bathory. She's the evil one. And she's Jack The Ripper.
...Okay. ...?
Bram Stoker is a character in Dracula: The Un-Dead and there are special appearances from the Titanic and newfangled technology like motorcars and aereoplanes. There's even an "I am your father" moment.
Not only that, but Dacre Stoker basically undid pretty much everything that happened in the original novel. There's a scene in the book where Dracula confronts Bram Stoker for "writing lies about him."
Apparently Dacre just didn't like the fact that, in the original novel, Dracula can exist in sunlight without bursting into flame (his powers were diminished, that was all) so he just claims that's one of Bram's "lies."
Basically, rather than work with the source material, Dacre Stoker told the source material to go fuck itself and made up his own universe where Dracula was never a villain, thus taking a classic horror icon and turning him into an uninteresting bitch.
This book is completely stupid.

My heart isn't in reviewing right now, my heart is in complaining. So that's what I've decided to do.
First of all, I want you to ignore anything positive I may have said about And Another Thing... all those days ago. I have a bone to pick with all of these types of books.
There are a lot of books out now that are "official sequels" to books by dead people. There are also a lot of "Pride And Prejudice from Mister Darcy's point of view" type books, and I'm sure a lot of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies style books are on the horizon.
I'm sorry, people, but how is your fanfic getting publishing deals?
That's all these books are: glorified fan fiction.
"Oh, well I'm Bram Stoker's great grandnephew, and I wrote it with a vampire expert." So? Watch me care. Are you Bram Stoker? No. You're not. In the world of books, it can't be an official sequel if it's not written by the same dude. (These are my rules. I make them up.)
I don't care that And Another Thing... was based on Douglas Adams's notes. I don't care that Adams's widow asked Eoin Colfer specifically to write it. He fucked it up. All of the characters were wrong and the dialogue was awful. It isn't a real Hitchhiker's book.
Dracula: The Un-Dead is not a sequel to Dracula. Anything from the source material that's inconvenient gets thrown out for the sake of whatever nonsense it was Dacre Stoker wanted to do.
It's not clever to make Bram Stoker a character who happened to write a "fictionalized account of what really happened." It's lazy. You couldn't make your ideas fit into the real story, so you used some half assed explanation to throw the real story out the window.
Dacre Stoker and Eoin Colfer and whatever dingdong it was who wrote those godawful Harriet The Spy sequels need to stop it right now. So do all the people writing "revisualized" books or "Jane Austen and monsters" stories.
Write your own books. Don't fuck up the work of the dead.

End of line.

Kronk's New Groove

It wasn't worth it.

End of line.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Skeleton Crew

According to backstory, in the 1970s a doctor at a European mental institution tortured and killed his patients. He filmed all of it. Now, in the 2000s, a film crew is in that same, now abandoned institution, filming a movie about the atrocities that happened in the '70s.
Of course, the crew happens to find a secret room with all the doctor's films in it and the movie director becomes obsessed. He decides to finish the doctor's work.
Skeleton Crew is badly acted and barely makes sense and, somehow, that works in the movie's favor. I don't know why but, much like Pep Squad, this movie would have sucked in the hands of capable actors.
There are plot holes (the most obnoxious one: there's a crew member (the actor playing the Boyfriend) who disappears after the first sequence; there's no explanation for it, he doesn't get killed, he's just gone), unexplained supernatural type stuff and a lot of dumb references to "We're in a horror movie, we have to follow the rules."
That was actually what bugged me most about the movie. After Scream came out, a large portion of slasher movies decided they were film savvy, too, and decided to have their characters talk about "the rules." It was a gimmick in Scream, a pathetic gimmick in Screams 2 and 3, and in every non-Scream movie it sounds even stupider. Skeleton Crew loses extra points because they don't make an attempt to explain what the rules are. One character actually ends the "following the rules" line with "Let's go to the basement." ...I'm sorry, what?! Be it a rule or just some advice, going into the basement is always a bad idea. Anyone in any other movie where they yammer about the stupid rules could tell you that!
In spite of that, I actually really liked Skeleton Crew. It was very stupid. It was also a lot of fun. And I get the impression nobody was taking the movie too seriously. I like that.
I imagine the writer didn't write a script so much as he wrote the following checklist:
- girls in underwear
- blood
- pun-spouting villain
- lesbians
- funny accents (they claim to be an American crew, but I counted entirely two people with American accents)
- incomprehensible twist
- incomprehensible stinger
Everything got thrown into a pot and we ended up with a pretty good soup.
Too bad the writer didn't bother to add "explanations" to the checklist. 'Cause I liked the incomprehensible twist but then they didn't actually do anything with it. If they took out the incomprehensible twist, the only thing the movie would have lost would have been that nonsense about following the rules. Which, honestly, would have improved it.
What they should have done was give their incomprehensible twist to a movie that would have worked with it.

End of line.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Paranormal Activity

Mild spoilers ahead. Ye be warned.

At best, Paranormal Activity is a shaggy dog story: way too much setup for a mediocre punchline.
Raving Bitch and her boyfriend Useless Asshole are trying to investigate a ghost or demon or somesuch that has been obsessed with Raving Bitch since she was eight. The whole thing is shown in home movies that the couple made.
It was The Blair Witch Project all over again. And I'm not saying "It was the same style." I'm saying someone said "Let's remake Blair Witch but have it all take place in one house."
It starts with the couple happy and enthusiastic. Then they start hearing loud noises in the night and spend the rest of the movie screaming at each other 'cause they're out of cigarettes and he kicked the map into the river. No, wait, I mean because there was a picture in the attic and he brought a Ouija board into the house. Whatever.
The only way it differs from Blair Witch is we actually get to see some stuff. Emphasis on the "some." In other words, you see a shadow twice and some footprints. Oooh, spooky.
Oh, no, wait...
I was pretty excited going in to Paranormal Activity. I knew absolutely nothing about it going in other than everyone was raving about how terrifying it was. I'd only ever seen one preview and that was mostly just shots of the audience screaming. I almost never get to go to movies that I know nothing about, so I was all for it.
This is a movie that would have been terrifying a few decades ago, back when it hadn't been done before. If it had come out in the sixties, nobody would have made such a huge deal when Blair Witch came out in the nineties and would have saved us a lot of trouble. "Oh. It's Paranormal Activity, but in the woods. Let's go see Mystery Men instead."
Maybe Paranormal Activity was actually scary and I'm just jaded. I did have a good time watching it, but for all the wrong reasons. Lauren and I had a lot of fun insulting the characters under our breath. I know I complain about unlikable characters a lot, but jeesh! There's a reason I call them Raving Bitch and Useless Asshole. And I'd like to point out that we were not the only ones laughing.
The "terrifying noises" mostly just sounded like "the demon bought a drum kit." For most of the movie he seemed less like a threat and more like an annoying roommate.
I will say this: I admired the way the demon's actions were built up. It went from playing the drums to dragging people down the hall (one of two cool parts).
And I loved the last scene. Loved it, thought it was awesome. However, even though the movie was only about an hour and a half long, it felt like it took days to get to there.
I don't know if I think that last scene is worth the overly long, overly annoying build up. But I feel like it wouldn't be nearly as satisfying if there was no buildup at all. And it was only just satisfying enough (because, like I said, unlike Blair Witch, they actually gave us something at the end).
It really is just a shaggy dog story.

End of line.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Of Blood

In spite of the early "girl gets her face ripped off" scene, Book Of Blood takes a while to get going. For a while there I was wishing it would hurry up and end.
Eventually that feeling passed and I found myself completely drawn in to a pretty damn interesting ghost story.
An author who writes and teaches a class about paranormal activity holes up in a supposedly haunted house with her friend-with-a-lot-of-high-tech-equipment and one of her students, who has psychic visions. Crazy shit starts happening.
I've discovered the hardest thing in the world for me to do is review things that I enjoyed. I can never think of anything to say about them.
I liked Book Of Blood. I really did. That's all I've got.
That and an effective ending was marred by a framing device. Most of the movie is a story that the main character is telling. So after a very effective ending, a second and kind of pointless ending is tacked on for bad measure.
It doesn't ruin the movie, though.

End of line.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Wizard Of Gore

"Sit down, bitch. You die tonight."
It's probably better to watch remakes before the originals. That way I can be confused by them on their own merits.
The most I can say about the plot of Wizard Of Gore is this: Montag The Magnificent (Crispin Glover) performs magic shows wherein he mutilates and kills people (most of them are naked chicks, but we do get a clothed chick and a dude in his underwear, too). The people are fine at the end of the show, but the next day they're found dead anyway. Edmund Bigelow (Kip Pardue), his girlfriend Maggie (Bijou Philips) and their friend Jinky (Joshua Miller) try to crack the case.
There's the "back of the DVD" summary for you.
It took me more than an hour to realize that The Wizard Of Gore is a Se7en style film noir suspense movie. I rented it expecting a gorefest but, all things considered, it wasn't that bloody. All the magic tricks were performed behind a smokescreen and were the victims of cutaways and discretion shots. I'm not going to run out and, for instance, recommend this movie to my mom (for several reasons), but if you're really into gore, don't get your hopes up for a lot of it.
Anyway, once I got over the hurdle of figuring out exactly what kind of movie it is, I managed to enjoy it more. I just had to relax and let the plot twists take over.
'Cause, really, that's all this movie is: a series of plot twists. I think the majority of movies like to throw one or two really big plot twists at the audience in order to keep them on their toes. This one threw in several, to the point where not only do I think I didn't understand the movie, but I don't understand what I didn't understand about it.
Which, considering some of Montag The Magnificent's speeches, may have been the point in the first place. Either that, or we can include "what the hell he was going on about" to the list of things I didn't understand.
I think I would have really liked The Wizard Of Gore if it weren't for the protagonist. Edmund Bigelow has no redeeming qualities. In fact, he pretty much lacks a personality completely. The only stand out characteristic he has is that everything he owns is from the 1950s. To the point where it stops being cool and starts being pretentious. When your main character is bland and unlikable it really decreases the power of some of the plot twists.
Then there's Maggie. She lacks personality, too. So I guess she and Edmund are perfect for each other. At least Maggie owns a laptop computer, so she's bland and useless without being pretentious about it. Except she does spend a lot of time bitching and moaning about how the magic show is misogynistic. Which doesn't stop her from going a second, third and fourth time with Edmund. Inconsistency, thy name is Maggie.
I've got no beef with Jinky. He was the one likeable person in this mess.
It's really too bad that this movie is littered with these characters, really. I had no problem with the movie itself. It was confusing, certainly, but sometimes I like to be confused. I feel a bit like I did after I watched Saw IV. I'm a little pissed off right now 'cause I don't get it, but when it dawns on me I'm going to be very impressed.
A rewatch is out of the question, though, because I can't sit through another hour and a half of Edmund Bigelow and his stupid vintage suits.
You know you're a useless character when I hate your vintage suit.

End of line.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saludos Amigos

Saludos Amigos is the first of Disney's "Look how cool Latin America is" double feature. It includes Donald Duck and Goofy cartoons, and a cartoon about an airplane, in between live action segments about Disney animators taking a trip to South America.
The movie was followed with The Three Caballeros, which I've seen about a bajillion times and couldn't help but draw comparisons to. Here's what I came up with:
Saludos Amigos is more informational than The Three Caballeros. The Three Caballeros is more entertaining than Saludos Amigos.
That isn't to say Saludos Amigos isn't entertaining. It's just that the live action segments aren't as much fun as the cartoons. And, honestly, I wasn't thrilled with the airplane cartoon. I would have liked another Donald or Goofy cartoon instead.
Saludos Amigos comes from a bygone era when people really gave a damn about their educational films. Actually, I don't know if it was all people or just Disney, but still.
These days if someone was given the assignment to make a movie about the people and lifestyle in South America they'd probably take some cameras, interview some people, shoot some crowd footage, write some dull narration and edit together a completely boring and unwatchable documentary for school children to groan about and ignore, or to air on PBS to an audience of none because the only good stuff PBS shows are Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers and the occasional filmed-for-television live musical.
I digress. My point is that there was a time when educational films were a lot more like Saludos Amigos and Hemo The Magnificent (a movie about blood and the heart, directed by Frank Capra). Sure, they tell you stuff, but they're entertaining too. People are much more inclined to remember things if they had fun learning them.
At any rate, Saludos Amigos is a little dryer and a little less fun than The Three Caballeros. It doesn't have the Aracuan or a crazy, senseless, tripped out sequence near the end. What it does have, though, is actual information. I don't think The Three Caballeros was as successful as an educational film as Saludos Amigos is. If I was supposed to learn about Latin America from Three Caballeros, it's news to me. I thought it just happened to take place in Brazil and Mexico.
Best parts of the Saludos Amigos: the Goofy cartoon and the Jose Carioca cameo.

End of line.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Monster Squad

"One hundred years before this story begins... It was a time of darkness in Transylvania... A time when Abraham Van Helsing... and a small band of freedom fighters... conspired to rid the world of vampires and monsters... and to save mankind from the forces of eteranal evil... They blew it."
So now it's up to The Monster Squad to clean up Van Helsing's mess.
Count Dracula is leading Frankenstein's Monster, the Wolf Man, a Mummy and a Gillman in a campaign to take over the world. There's a magic amulet that, if smashed at midnight on a certain date, will throw off the balance between Good and Evil and the monsters will rule.
Luckily, this is an '80s movie. That means the kids in the movie are smart, resourceful wiseasses. They know what's going on and they will save the day.
Members of the Monster Squad are the Sean, the leader; Patrick, his right-hand man; Horace, the token fat guy; Rudy, the token tough guy and Eugene, the token fraidy-cat. For good measure, we also have the One Adult Who Knows What's Going On and the Adorable, Precocious Little Sister.
They know their stuff when it comes to monsters, challenging each other to figure out a way, other than a silver bullet, to kill a werewolf. They're on the job the second they figure out there's a threat.
The movie is fun and light and a good all-ages monster movie. I have to admit I never actually watched it back when I was little and my brother rented it a lot. I did, however, memorize everything he told me about it so I could tell my friends at school about it. (I was too afraid to watch horror movies when I was little, but in spite of that I was still a fan.)
If I had been brave enough to watch The Monster Squad back when I was six, though, I would have loved it.
Extra points go to Duncan Regehr as Count Dracula. I don't know if it's the fact that they didn't try to tack a pointless, cheesy love story onto him or what, but he is the most dignified, effective and downright meanacing Draculas I've seen. (In spite of his costume, which looked like it came from a Halloween store. It was one of the more expensive Halloween store Dracula costumes, but still, it's not great.) I would not mess with this particular Dracula.
And there are some Draculas that I would totally start a fight with if I needed to.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I went in with an open mind, I swear. I've never seen any movie adaptations of it or anything. The most I knew about the Frankenstein story was that a dude creates a monster out of dead folks. That's it.
I had no idea, for instance, that Victor Frankenstein is the First Original Emo Kid. He creates his monster, all right. Then, the second it comes to life, he decides he hates it and he shouldn't have made it. He proceeds to spend the rest of the book wangsting about it: "Oh, everything bad that's happening to me is my fault because I created that horrible demon!"
Well, no, not exactly. Everything bad that's happening to you is your fault because you created that horrible demon and immediately abandoned it. If you'd stuck around and educated him and showed to him that, in spite of his unpleasant appearance, someone did care about him, he wouldn't have run around killing people.
The monster doesn't really show up after his creation 'til the middle of the book, where he monologues for six or seven chapters about what he's been up to the past couple of years. I never would have guessed, based on what I know of Universal's Frankenstein, that the monster not only speaks, but is as "eloquent" and long winded as everybody else in the book.
During his seven chapter ramble, we get to find out what led him to murder: "Nobody likes me." So the monster's a bit of an Emo Kid, too.
Anyway, the monster offers Victor the chance to stop his (the monster's) murderous ways and the doctor, rather than just do it so everyone around him will stop dying, whines and complains and whinges and eventually doesn't do it because he's too busy dwelling on the "what ifs" to realize the "for certains." Namely: If You Build It, He Will Stop Murdering Members Of Your Family.
Mary Shelley is the master of eighty gajillion word sentences that don't actually tell you anything. The book is nearly impossible to follow, and only really started making sense when I started to imagine Victor Frankenstein with Jim Parsons' voice. Once he became Doctor Sheldon Frankenstein he was a lot easier to understand.
Also, I am sick and tired of people talking about how things "made them wretched." It's apparently the only synonym for "depressed" that Mary Shelley knew, and she used it at least once every three pages. The word "depressed" shows up a total of zero times. I'm pretty sure the same goes for good, old fashioned "sad."
My final complaint about the book is a little uncertain because it has to deal with foreshadowing. Basically, she was lousy at it. So lousy, in fact, that I wonder if she was really trying to foreshadow, or if she was actually flat out telling you "This is what's going to happen a few chapters from now."
For instance, at one point Doctor Frankenstein is talking about how enthusiastic his traveling companion was, then says "And where does he now exist? Is this gentle and lovely being lost for ever? ... No, it is not thus; your form so divinely wrought...has decayed, but your spirit still visits and consoles your unhappy friend." Golly gosh, I wonder what's going to happen to that guy? He doesn't get killed for another three or four chapters, but any surprise that I would have felt at his death was completely squashed dozens of pages before it happened.
Were people so dumb in the 1700s that they could be beaten over the head with clumsy foreshadowing and still be shocked by the outcome? Am I just a cynic who can see plot twists a mile away? Or was she just lousy at hinting?
I can honestly say, with all due respect to Mary Shelley, that Frankenstein bites. Reading the novel has cured me of any interest in seeing any film adaptation of the story. Two hundred pages of a guy whining and complaining about something he did, that he could have easily fixed, is not my idea of a good time.

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Friday, August 28, 2009

Halloween Two

Michael Myers is dead. Laurie Strode, Annie Brackett and Doctor Loomis are being carted off to the hospital, battered but alive. Myers' body is loaded into a coroner's truck and taken away, down a dark country road. Where it turns out Michael wasn't so dead after all.
Thus begins Halloween Two.
One year later, Laurie is trying to move on with her life. She's living with Annie and her father now, going to therapy, working at a coffee shop and having graphic nightmares on a regular basis.
Doctor Loomis is shilling yet another book he's written about Michael Myers.
And Michael is heading back to Haddonfield at the urging of the spectre of his dead mother, slaughtering everybody he encounters along the way.
The three of them will meet again on Halloween night.
Rob Zombie has a visual style that I can only describe as "pretty grime," a style that for one reason or another really appeals to me. Everything in the movie looks dirty and maybe a little sticky, but the shots he sets up can be beautiful to look at (for example, a blindingly bright moon shining through the trees, Laurie's silhouette running and stumbling across the screen).
A lot of the movie relies on dreams and symbolism (Myers' mom, all in white, with a white horse is the most prominent; the movie opens with the definition of white horse dreams), and for once the "it was all a dream" moments didn't feel like a cop out. In fact, the dream sequences are some of the most effective in the film.
After seeing the first Halloween (well, the first Rob Zombie one) I was convinced that Doctor Loomis could not possibly become more of a money hungry, sensationalist douchecanoe. Turns out I was wrong. Props to Malcolm McDowell for playing him as well as he does, but I'm starting to wonder about him. He plays assholes to perfection, and I don't know if I've ever seen him play a character I actually liked.
Scout Taylor-Compton did a damn good job playing Laurie in this movie. There didn't seem to be much to the character in the first one. She was just the least slutty of her friends. Laurie Strode's got quite a bit of character depth now and she nearly brought me to tears a few times. It nicely balanced out the moments I didn't think worked so well (standing on a table, ranting about how she wants to party and get drunk, for instance).
Rob Zombie is probably the only director in history to think "You know what Michael Myers needs? A great big mountain man beard!" And he pulls it off. Almost every scene Michael is in ends with an act of unimaginable violence, and none of it is shied away from. Decapitation by glass shard, face stomped in, impaled on antlers, you want it, Halloween Two's got it. It's all grisly and it's all on screen for your disgust or delight, depending on your taste.
As far as I'm concerned, Halloween Two is quite an improvement over the first one. I'm hoping more directors take a cue from Rob Zombie and start trying their damndest to make sequals equal to or greater than their originals. 'Cause, while I prefer House Of 1000 Corpses to The Devil's Rejects, Rejects is a better movie (it's just a hell of a lot less fun). And Halloween Two blows Halloween right out of the water.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Welcome to Mordant Airhead

Hi, everybody!
My name is Sally and, assuming I stick with it, this blog will be the place where I write movie reviews. And possibly reviews of other things.
The grand opening will be on Friday, after I get back from seeing Halloween Two. Right now, however, as an introduction to me, here are my top five favorite and least favorite movies.

1) House Of 1000 Corpses
2) Repo! The Genetic Opera
3) Clue
4) Cannibal! The Musical
5) The Evil Dead

1) Juno
2) Meet The Parents
3) The Shining
4) Twilight
5) The Squid And The Whale

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