Saturday, March 27, 2010

The Princess And The Frog

I wanted to see The Princess And The Frog when it came out, but I also thought the trailers were poorly made in the sense that they made the movie look racist. The movie isn't racist (it is historically inaccurate, though; I honestly doubt the 1920s would have allowed a rich white girl and a poor black girl in Louisiana to be lifelong best friends).
The thing is, I always thought The Frog Prince was a stupid story. I loved fairy tales when I was a kid (I still do) but Frog Prince never really did anything but annoy me. My favorite part was the golden ball the princess was playing with at the beginning of the story. It sounded neat. Why didn't I have one of those?
So here was a movie that, on first glance, was a racist movie about a boring story.
I'm so glad I was wrong. The Princess And The Frog is awesome! It's barely related to Frog Prince and everybody wins (except the gold ball, who doesn't appear in this version).
It's about a girl named Tiana who wants, more than anything in the world, to open her own restaurant. Her best friend, Charlotte, wants to marry the visiting Prince Naveen, who wants to marry a rich girl so he can continue to live frivolously because his parents have cut him off. Naveen's servant wants to be a prince and the Shadow Man wants to pay a debt he owes to his friends on the other side.
Oh my god, the Shadow Man! He is So Cool. He's sinister as hell, but he's also totally stylish and charismatic. His villain song (which I think is called Friends On The Other Side) is fucking epic! (Can you say "fuck" in a Disney movie review? ...Maybe you can't but I can!)
Anyway, Naveen and his servant make a deal with the Shadow Man and things go all higgeldy piggeldy. ("Higgeldy piggeldy means a real mess.")
Comedy relief comes in the form of a jazz loving alligator named Louis and a Cajun firefly named Raymond (but his friends call him Ray). He was another totally misleading aspect of the previews. They made him look like he was all fart jokes and gross out humor. Turns out he is the source of the two most cry-inducing parts of the movie. Ray is awesome.
Although I do prefer Louis. I wish he was my friend.
Actually, I think what makes The Princess And The Frog work is that every single character is completely likeable. Even spoiled rich girl Charlotte, who talks a mile a minute and, unlike every other spoiled rich girl Disney's ever created, honestly cares about her best friend. Charlotte has layers. It's amazing. And you love Charlotte's dad before he even finishes saying one word. It takes one syllable to recognize John Goodman's voice, and anybody who doesn't love John Goodman has no soul.
I guess "likeable" isn't really the word for the Shadow Man. It's not strong enough. He's too awesome to just be likeable, and he sure as hell ain't loveable. I don't know what you'd call it. He's creepy but damned if you don't admire the guy. He's a good villain.
Of course, then there's Tiana and Naveen, who aren't bad characters at all but they have the same problem a lot of leads have when they're surrounded by a crazy fun supporting cast: they're just not as interesting. I don't think I really realized that 'til this morning, though, so it isn't a hinderance to the movie.
And I guess Disney got really sick of people complaining that their princesses never do anything, because Tiana works her butt off.
I can't think of a good way to end this review, so I'm just going to let it peter out.

End of line.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare

Freddy's Dead is choppy, silly and makes very little sense. I swear, there's a part where One Character says something about Freddy and Another Character asks who that is. Not two minutes later, Another Character suddenly knows exactly who Freddy is, how he works and what's going on. I didn't hear anybody fill her in. She just learned through psychic brain waves or something.
Freddy's Dead is also probably the most fun Nightmare movie. I get the feeling the filmmakers said "Okay, our series has gotten silly. Run with it!" I like that. I wish I could have seen the last act in 3-D, but other than that I have no complaints about this movie.
I wonder if Bill Hicks was mad that they stole his joke, though. There's a scene where Johnny Depp (oh, I'm sorry, I mean Oprah Noodlemantra) performs the "This is your brain; this is your brain on drugs," commercial. The second he started talking I was quoting Bill Hicks at him:
"That's an egg! That's a frying pan. You're an alcoholic. I am tripping right now and I still see that is a fucking egg."
When he got to "Any questions?" Freddy popped in, smacked Noodlemantra in the face with a frying pan and said "Yeah, what are you on? It looks like a couple of eggs and a frying pan to me!"
Somehow, though, Freddy stealing Bill Hicks's material doesn't piss me off nearly as much as Denis Leary stealing Bill Hicks's material.
Anyway, to make a long story short (too late) Freddy's Dead is super fun. I loved it.
And now, as promised, the heirarchy of Nightmare movies, from best to worst:

1) Wes Craven's New Nightmare (honestly, I don't know why everyone makes such a big deal about Scream when all of the things about it that people thought were so innovative had already been done, and done better, in New Nightmare)
2) A Nightmare On Elm Street (I just watched this one a few days ago, too; it's always better than I remember it being)
3) Freddy's Dead: The Final Nightmare
4) A Nightmare On Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
5) A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master
6) A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child
7) A Nightmare On Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge (I may have to re-watch this one just to make sure it shouldn't switch places with Nightmare Five; the only thing I really remember about this one is that it seemed really homophobic to me)

And if any of the four of you are asking "What about Freddy Versus Jason?" I will tell you what about it: It isn't a Nightmare On Elm Street movie! It isn't a Friday The Thirteenth movie, either. It isn't canon, it's a fucking one-off comic book that somehow ended up being a movie instead. I like it, I think it's fun, but the idea that it could ever be included in either series disgusts me.

End of line.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 5: The Dream Child

You know what bugs me, is as the series goes on Freddy stops using his glove. That glove is fucking awesome and I can't remember it really being used as a weapon after the third movie. It just becomes a really bitchin' accessory. That's all well and good for me; my Freddy glove is made of plastic. But, damn it, if you're actually Freddy Krueger, use the damn thing!
I had a dream a few weeks ago that I had a baby (whose name was Frederick, now that I think about it; we all know what's short for Frederick ... that's really weird) who was a demon baby and wanted to kill everyone. Even me. I was also the only person he liked, though, so he was going to kill me last, I guess. I'd never seen this movie when I had that dream, but there were some interesting parallels.
I have serious issues with demon babies. There's a reason I've never seen It's Alive.
I have a few problems with this movie. First of all, it's gross. For example, one character is force-fed to death, so there's exaggerated puffed out cheeks and gross vomity looking stuff spewing from her mouth. I don't deal well with that sort of thing.
I'm also pissed off that the one really likeable character, Mark, was the most poorly acted character in the movie. The best performance came from Yvonne, the annoying bitchy character that I hated. What the hell? That's not fair!
Dream Child is giving Freddy's Revenge pretty healthy competition for Worst Nightmare Movie.

End of line.

A Nightmare On Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

I watched this movie two days ago and I can barely remember it. Oops.
What I can tell you is that it wasn't a bad movie. Admittedly, I'm partial to the Nightmare series. We all know I love Robert Englund, but I also love dream sequences.
There are three genres of television episode I will always watch, even if they're happening on a show I don't watch, or even can't stand: musical episodes, Halloween episodes and dream episodes. In fact, my favorite episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer (a show that dabbled in all three genres) is Restless, the last episode of season four which consists of nothing but Willow, Xander, Giles and Buffy's dreams.
All right. So. Back to what I was saying in the first place:
Admittedly, I'm partial to the Nightmare series. And, as Nightmare movies go, this wasn't great. It wasn't bad, either. It just was.
It was so average that I can't really remember it. I'm pretty sure I had fun watching it. I know this was really the start of Funny Freddy, who became stronger in the fifth and sixth movies.
And there were a lot of shots of Freddy kind of far away and silhouettey with his glove prominently displayed. He got three or four dramatic reveals in the movie, in spite of the fact that it's only really dramatic the first time.
That wasn't a complaint. It's just something I noticed.

End of line.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Hollywood Monster: A Walk Down Elm Street With The Man Of Your Dreams

When I was about seven there was this show called Nightmare Cafe. We had the first three episodes on tape and it disappeared three episodes after that. One of the characters on the show was this old timey gambler guy named Blackie who I just loved. He was the coolest dude on television (after Dean Stockwell on Quantum Leap) as far as I was concerned.
Then my brother told me he was played by the same guy who played Freddy Krueger and my brain broke. Blackie was so cool and Freddy was so scary. I was terrified of everything remotely resembling a horror movie at that point in my life and Freddy was probably the worst offender because he had finger knives.
I actually became obsessed with horror movies before I ever had the nerve to watch them. I'd memorize everything Brad told me about the movies I was too scared to watch and then repeat him pretty much verbatim at school so people would think I'd actually seen them. I'm glad nobody ever asked me about scenes Brad never talked about. I'd've been screwed.
Anyway, the point is because of Blackie being Freddy I developed a weird obsession with the Kreugenator. I was still scared to death of him but I also loved him. To this day he's my favorite of the Big Five (Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Leatherface, Michael Myers and Pinhead); he's the most lovable and the only one who still has the ability to scare me. Nikki thinks he's a sissy whose ass she could kick, but he's the only one of the five who I honestly see no escape from: Leatherface can be killed, you can run away from Jason and Michael and if you don't want to meet Pinhead just avoid puzzle boxes. Freddy, though, can't be killed (he's already dead) and he gets you in your dreams. You can't escape that. Everybody has to sleep.
So, to make a long story short (too late) I love Robert Englund. And I just finished reading his book. And I felt it was appropriate to begin my review of his book with the tale about how I came to be aware of him.
Hollywood Monster is like the Robert Englund version of Stephen Tobolowsky's Birthday Party, but in book form. It's a series of stories about his life as an actor, starting with joining a youth theater group to meet girls and ending with getting a ten minute standing ovation for an Italian art film. Most of the book is about playing Freddy (he only wrote, like, two paragraphs about Nightmare Cafe, dang it) but that makes sense. He played the guy in eight movies and it's still his best known role (runner up: Willie in V).
Anybody who's seen interviews with him knows that Robert Englund is a talker. He will go on for as long as you let him. There's nothing wrong with that, and I get the feeling if he hadn't been reigned in, Hollywood Monster would have been longer than War And Peace. He writes like how he talks.
It's a good book and a quick read, and now I want to go out and find all of Robert Englund's movies (and television appearances) and if I had to have a complaint about it I'd go with the old "It's a little disjointed." And by that I mean "Not all of the stories really go anywhere." If I cared about that sort of thing, that would be my complaint.
In some books I'm sure that would be a very big deal. In this particular book, though, it doesn't matter because, like I said, it's like reading a guy talking for an afternoon. Nobody tells only stories that have a point. People just talk.
And so does Robert Englund.

End of line.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Phantom Of The Mall Eric's Revenge

Here there be spoilers. Ye be warned (but I can't imagine ye really care).

This was surprisingly... What's the word I'm looking for? It wasn't "good." Oh, yes! This was surprisingly not awful.
Phantom Of The Mall is one of those movies you'd run across at, like, two thirty on a Sunday afternoon on channel thirteen and you'd sit and watch the whole thing without really knowing why. There's a few minorly famous people in it (Ken Foree, a surprisingly mellow Pauly Shore, Morgan Fairchild) and some people who look familiar and you spend half the movie trying to figure out where you've seen them (Mac's dad from It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia). And the end credits theme song is by The Vandals!
The plot is basic: A girl's boyfriend's house burned down exactly a year ago and now she's working at the new mall they built in its spot. The boyfriend died. Or did he?!
No. Of course not.
The problem is the characters do things because the script told them to, not because they're the natural reactions people would have. For instance, why is the dead boyfriend killing all the mall's security guards? They didn't do anything to him. They needed some kills for this to fall (barely) into the slasher genre, that's why. So, okay, it doesn't make sense but I can live with that.
But then there's the lead girl, Melody. Melody spends pretty much the entire movie moping about how much she loved her dead boyfriend. She meets a photographer guy who wants to help her solve the mystery of the orchids in her locker/boyfriend's house burning down.
Then dead boyfriend saves Melody's life and kidnaps her and she's happy to see him until he tells her they can be together again. Suddenly she's in love with photographer guy. I don't buy it.
I mean, I kind of do because Melody seems shallow enough that she could let some facial deformation due to burn scars get in the way of her, until that point, strong feelings of love.
I'm just saying, if she was honestly as in love with this dude as she claimed to be, the scars wouldn't really be a problem.
But, whatever, okay, I'll buy that she's no longer in love with dead boyfriend due to ugliness. I don't buy that she's in love with photographer guy. She barely knows him and he's the blandest. She only likes him because the script told her to.
Meh. Whatever. I didn't like or dislike the movie enough to care (well, I guess I cared a little or I wouldn't have written about it...).
The best part was the end credits song and the fact that now that I've watched it I don't have to worry about watching it again.
Unless I run across it on television on a Sunday afternoon.

End of line.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Speaking of movies that are unlike all other movies...
Ink is awesome. I don't mean that in a slangy way. I'm being quite literal. I'm in awe of this movie. It's one of those movies that's so good it made me pretty much give up on ever making my own movie. I could never make something this powerful. (Although I guess that was never my goal. Nevermind, everybody, maybe I will make a movie someday.)
The premise is basically that, when you're sleeping, if you have good dreams they're given to you by a Storyteller and if you have bad dreams they're given to you by an Incubus. A little girl is taken into the dreamworld by a sort of an Incubus-In-Training and a bunch of Storytellers are trying to save her, but they need her dad in order to do so.
That's all I can tell you. Hell, I feel like I've already said too much.
One of the reasons this movie is incredible is the fact that I loved it. It's extremely serious, it's very deep and meaningful, there's pretty much no humor in it at all and it's really artsy. Those tend to be the sort of thing that make me hate a movie. I guess I just hadn't seen serious, deep, artsy movies made by talented filmmakers before. (Sorry, Steve Balderson; I liked your casting but Firecracker kinda blows.)
And I cried through the whole thing. Not even five minutes in I was choked up and the closer it got to the end the weepier I got, to the point where I was sobbing and punching myself in the leg and begging the movie to have a happy ending. (I'm not going to tell you whether or not I got one.)
It's the only movie I've ever seen where I felt like all that emotional turmoil I went through was worth it. Generally if a movie wrecks me like that I hold a grudge forever. "Fuck you, you made me cry!" I don't feel that way about Ink.
My one complaint is really minor, and it's the design of the Storytellers. The Incubi are fucking terrifying. They're definitely human but they're also complete monsters and if I ever saw one in real life I'd lose my mind from fear. The Storytellers, on the other hand, are like a bunch of college students whose natural habitat is an audition for a community theater production of Rent. That's not a good thing. We're supposed to be rooting for these people, you couldn't do anything to make them at least a little bit more interesting?
But overall that complaint is tiny because I did root for the Storytellers. It took me a minute to get used to them, but they didn't really detract from the movie.
I wish I could better describe what impressed me about Ink, but I don't know how.
I've seen movies that have tried, on a very base level, to do what this movie has done. It's shown out of order, sort of, and it's artistically and plotfully dense. However, it never made the mistakes that other movies I've seen of that style make: it never made me feel stupid, it never made me feel like it thought it was better than me. If anyone else had made this movie I'd probably be verbally ripping it to shreds right now.
And, the most amazing part is I understood it. Usually with a movie of this scope, with this much plot, it takes me a day or two to figure out what I saw and what happened, but I didn't have a problem with Ink. It's a rich, intelligent movie that even a ding dong like me actually understood without having to sleep on it.
Much as I loved it, I think I'll only ever watch it again to show it to other people who have never seen it. It's a beautiful movie but it isn't something you watch for fun. I'll never get rid of it but I'll almost never watch it, either.
And I don't say this very often, especially not about movies that break all the rules of what I usually like about movies, but I think everyone should see Ink.
Or not. Whatever. I'm not the boss of you.

End of line.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Repo! The Genetic Opera

I wrote this review in November 2008 with the intention of having it published in The Acorn if the movie ever actually came to theaters in the Agoura / Thousand Oaks / Simi Valley / Moorpark / Camarillo area. It didn't.
This is not only an old review but it's also written for a "respected" publication that actually gives a damn about sounding like you know what you're talking about. Which is why it doesn't sound much like it was written by me. I assure you it was.
The point is, Repo Men, a direct ripoff of Repo! The Genetic Opera, is going to be released next week. I'm protecting my turf in the only way I know how.

Repo! The Genetic Opera is a film ten years in the making, growing from a two-man show to a full-cast stage play before finding its way onto celluloid.
In the near future, an epidemic of organ failures causes mass chaos and death until GeneCo, a company specializing in genetically engineered organ transplants, arrives to save the world. The company starts a trend, turning transplants into fashion statements, and GeneCo's owner, Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino), pushes a bill through congress legalizing organ reposessions.
The movie opens with Rotti receiving news that he is dying. Feeling his children aren't worthy of inheriting his company, Rotti looks for a new heir.
Meanwhile, seventeen year old Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega) is infected with the blood disease that killed her mother and is longing for the outside world, having spent her life in her bedroom. Her father Nathan (Anthony Stewart Head) is a doctor who works for GeneCo and, unable to bear the idea of losing Shilo the way he lost his wife, has kept his daughter locked away.
The film takes place in one night, the night of GeneCo's Genetic Opera, a televised event promoting the company, featuring the final performance of superstar "Voice Of GeneCo" Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman, in her film debut).
Like most musicals, act one consists mainly of character introductions and plot exposition. Relationships are defined. The first act ends with foreshadowing of dramatic events to come At The Opera Tonight.
Act two is shorter and darker than act one, starting with an enthusiastic bang, with co-writer Darren Smith making a cameo as the opera's conductor, dancing down the aisle and demanding everybody "get down, stand up and testify!" However, it isn't long until the plot goes spiraling into despair. Secrets are revealed and people die.
As the title suggests, the film is a rock opera and viewers may be thrown by all the dialogue being sung. Backstories, which would have made the movie quite long if explained in song form, are told via comic book panels drawn by co-writer Terrance Zdunich, who also plays Graverobber.
And, as the movie's tagline says, this is "Not Your Parents' Opera." While it's not exactly a horror film it does contain several scenes of organ reposession, making the film gruesome enough to catch the attention of magazines such as Rue Morgue, Fangoria and GoreZone. The gore, however, is over the top, cartoonish and mainly played for laughs, which could put off some audience members. I found it quite funny; Thankless Job in particular is hilarious if your sense of humor is dark enough.
Director Darren Lynn Bousman's visuals are incredible, making the audience feel less like they're watching a movie and more as though they've been plunked in the middle of a different world and are watching the characters' lives happen around them.
The entire ensemble are perfectly cast and, while Repo! is essentially a movie about Nathan, Shilo and Rotti, the minor characters steal the show. Brightman is stunning as Blind Mag, and comic relief is provided by Rotti's sons: the face-stealing womanizer Pavi (played by Skinny Puppy frontman Nivek Ogre) and murderous Luigi (Bill Moseley). Paris Hilton plays Rotti's surgery-addicted daughter Amber Sweet and she impressed me enough to win my respect, able to convey emotions through occasionally heavy prothstetics. The Graverobber is a small but pivotal narrator role who has become iconic and a bit of a sex symbol among the movie's devoted fanbase.
Repo! The Genetic Opera is difficult to describe because, to my knowledge, there has never been another movie like it. It's a film made for moviegoers who want to see something they've never seen before.
I love it immensely.

End of line.