Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Dark Half

On the other end of the spectrum, there's one of George Romero's "lesser" works, which I enjoyed quite a lot. I mean, it wasn't absolutely brilliant and I probably thought it was funnier than the filmmakers intended, but since when is that a bad thing? (I guess if I thought, like, Schindler's List was funny, that'd be a bad thing. Luckily, I'm not reviewing Schindler's List. Ever.)
The movie starts with a kid named Thadeus Beaumont (now that's a name) having terrible fits and headaches, and has to have an absorbed twin removed from his brain. Thad grows up to be an author (played by Academy Award Winner Timothy Hutton) who releases novels nobody reads under his own name and, secretly, trashy detective stories under the name George Stark. When a guy threatens to blackmail Thadeus, ol' Thad decides to go public about his pseudonym and "kill off" George Stark. Georgie (played by Large Ham Timothy Hutton) doesn't take too kindly to being dead, though, and crawls out of the ground to exact his revenge.
For someone who has a hard time getting through even Stephen King's short stories, I love movies based on his work. I think it might be that I love his ideas but have a hard time with his writing style. Off the top of my head, The Shining is the only King movie adaptation that I didn't like (I have a hard time with Kubrick's directing style, so King + Kubrick = "ugh, nevermind"). So, knowing I have a soft spot for Stephen King movies, it was almost a given I was going to like The Dark Half (even though I think Dark Half may have been written by George Stark ... I mean, Richard Bachman).
It's also no secret that I'm a big fan of over the top acting, so Hutton's Stark was my very favorite part of the movie. He may as well be wearing a neon sign that says "Villain;" he's dressed in all black and has weird greaser hair and cuts people with a razor blade. And he has the best line in the movie:

GEORGE STARK: Murder. You want some?

That is brilliantly, ridiculously, hilariously evil, my friends. And I love it.
As with most King adaptations, there were some things I didn't get (Why sparrows? Why did George develop zombieism? ... Actually, I think they explained why George Stark appeared to be melting and I just missed it; sometimes the dialogue got a little quiet) but that's okay. I had fun watching The Dark Half and that's all that matters.

End of line.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kung Fu Panda

Po is a panda who wants to be one of the Furious Five, a group of kung fu masters. But he's big and clumsy and set to inherit his dad's noodle shop. But then he accidentally ("There are no accidents") gets chosen to become the Dragon Warrior. Which would be awesome, but the Furious Five and their master all hate him for being big and clumsy and not a member of the Furious Five.
Meanwhile, a leopard who the master had trained back in the day who thinks he should be the Dragon Warrior is escaping from jail to reclaim his status and probably kill a bunch of people 'cause he's a villain like that.
I really liked Kung Fu Panda. It's one of those "work hard and follow your dreams and you can do anything" movies. It was entertaining and most of the characters were completely loveable. Even the leopard; he's a good villain. Big and menacing and the type of guy who doesn't think twice about killing a thousand rhinosceri.
Heck, I can't think of a character that I didnt' like.
Except Tigeress. I'm not sure why the audience is supposed to be on her side but not the leopard's; I saw pretty much no difference between the two of them. She just threw a smaller tantrum when she didn't get picked to be Dragon Warrior. But both of them had that "it was supposed to be me" attitude and I don't believe for a second that she ever stopped believing it. Add that onto the fact that I never like self proclaimed leaders (I've always despised Leonardo and the Red Ranger, too) and you've got a character that I'm guaranteed to hate.
Other than her, though, the movie was great. I absolutely loved Po's dad, a manic, optimistic goose. He's one of those characters who you just want to hug all the time.
The most brilliant thing, though, is this movie understands the superhuman abilities a person can achieve when they need cookies. The needs of the sweet tooth outweigh the needs of the full. Or something.
You know how when Julie And Julia came out everyone talked about how it was food porn and the whole movie makes you really hungry? And then there's only a lot of food near the beginning and the whole movie mostly makes you want to smack Julie Powell for being a self centered twat? ... Wait, what was my point?
Oh yeah, food porn! Kung Fu Panda is food porn. By the end of this movie I was craving noodles and miso soup and dumplings and almond cookies like nobody's business. In fact, I'm getting hungry just thinking about it.
Why does food in cartoons always look so delicious?

End of line.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Alphabet Killer

It's official. I've seen too many movies and studied too many video boxes. I figured out who the killer was before I even opened the DVD case, based solely on the list of actors on the front of the box. It's depressing is what it is!
There's an episode of The IT Crowd where Roy really wants to watch a movie but doesn't want to know anything about its twist ending but things keep thwarting him. At one point he tries to watch the movie with Douglas, who sits there trying to guess what the twist is.
I, for all intents and purposes, am Roy. I just want to watch and enjoy my movies, that's all. The problem is, a conflicting part of my brain is Douglas, constantly trying to figure out the twists. I would really like that part of my brain to shut up sometimes.
Thanks to Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I have a pretty hard time buying Eliza Dushku as a police officer. I have no trouble, however, buying her as a complete nutball. Her character has a nervous breakdown trying to solve a murder (that's not a spoiler, that's the setup for the movie).
The Alphabet Killer was pretty good but, considering the course of events, I'm not sure if I buy very much of the "based on a true story" angle.

End of line.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Final Destination

When you've got almost nothing but horror movies left in Movie Lottery: The Revenge (I think there's only one non-horror left in the bunch) and you're pretty sure most of them are humorless, it's probably not the best idea to watch one of them when you woke up depressed and the day isn't doing you any favors. That's probably a good time to put on The Emperor's New Groove or Bill And Ted's Excellent Adventure. Something fun. Something happy.
But, feeling it's your duty (and you skipped a day or so anyway) you pull a slip of paper and watch what the Movie Lottery has bestowed: Final Destination.
Should've gone for Bill And Ted.
Let's just say it didn't improve my mood. That's not to say Final Destination is a bad movie. It just doesn't help when you're already down. It's too serious.
Devon Sawa plays a kid who has a vision of the airplane his class is taking to France exploding. So he freaks out, screaming that the plane's going to crash and they have to get out. Security tries to remove him, he says "Fuck that, I'll remove myself!" (I loved that line) and one of his classmates starts a fight with him. So Devon Sawa, Captain Pickafight, Pickafight's girlfriend, Sawa's best friend, a late arriving passenger, a teacher and a random girl who believes Devon Sawa all get off the plane, which explodes.
And when Death figures out that it missed a few, it gets pissed.
For the most part I really liked the movie; the premise was interesting and the action scenes were cool. It just wasn't the right movie for my mood; there's a lot of focus on people mourning and really reacting to the deaths that are happening around them. It's depressing.
Also, there's a whole lot of "nobody believes the one person who knows the truth" in the plot, which is something I always hate. It makes me tense. It also makes sense that nobody believes this guy, mainly because Devon Sawa's character does and says a lot of stuff that makes him look crazy or guilty or crazily guilty.
I have to say, I like Devon Sawa. I didn't back when I was in junior high and he was considered dreamy (he's not my type) but now that I've actually seen him in stuff (he's great in Idle Hands) I think he's a good actor and wonder why I haven't seen him in anything lately. Where did he go?
What really bugs me, though, is why did Captain Pickafight pick that fight? I mean, Devon Sawa was already being escorted off the plane. He didn't do or say anything to Captain Pickafight directly, his freakout had absolutely nothing to do with Captain Pickafight. Did the scriptwriters just decide one of the survivors needed to be a total asshole who you wanted to see get killed? There's no reason for it; the guy doesn't start throwing punches until after Devon Sawa has already decided to get off the plane. If he'd just stayed in his seat he could've blown up with everybody else and not spent the whole movie being an angry dickhead.
I'm just saying.

End of line.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Babysitter Wanted

Angie is a good little Catholic girl who has just moved away to college, where she acquires a doesn't-serve-the-plot-in-any-way bitchy roommate, a good little Catholic boyfriend, a job as a babysitter and a creepy stalker.
This is probably the best "babysitter in peril" movie I've ever seen. It's tense, it's creepy, it takes its sweet time but never strays into Boringville.
There were some plot points I knew about before I watched it (I saw a panel about it at Weekend Of Horrors last year and they had to tell some plot points to show the scenes they wanted to show) but that didn't detract from the movie at all. I was still on the edge of my seat, as they say (it was more like cowering in a corner of the couch).
And it's always nice to see Bill Moseley playing a good guy. I heart that man.

End of line.

Return Of The Living Dead 3

While my brother JustinCase is dealing with the misery that is Faces Of Death (I could never accomplish his Video Nasties quest, and Faces Of Death is one of the main reasons for that) I'm slogging through a misery of my own: Return Of The Living Dead 3.
The movie is ripe for drinking game status: Drink every time the lead character does something stupid. It's a good thing I didn't try that, though; I'd have the world's worst hangover right now.
Our lead characters are Curt (the stupid one) and his girlfriend Julie (who's not stupid so much as she is irritating). They sneak into a top secret military testing facility (drink!) and watch as the government tests some Trioxin (the zombie-making chemical from the first two movies) on a dead dude, who they then shoot with a zombie-tranquilizer. Curt and Julie go home and Curt has an argument with his dad and then runs away from home (drink!). He nearly runs his motorcycle in front of an eighteen wheeler (drink!), getting himself all scratched up and killing Julie. What's a whiny teenage boy to do? Sneak back into the military testing facility (drink!) and douse Julie in Trioxin (drink!), then act like everything's going to be the same as it was before she fucking died and continue to run away to Seattle (drink!).
There. Twenty minutes in and you're already hammered. And we've got a long way to go from here.
Eventually, the military's out to get them, some street thugs are out to get them, they take advantage of the hospitality of the one likeable character, a homeless guy named the River Man, to whom Curt conveniently doesn't mention that his girlfriend is undead.
Some people get bitten but there's almost no zombie action at all 'til damn near the very end of the movie.
Most of the movie is teenage angst: Curt trying to make everything the same as it was before and Julie whining about the pain and the hunger and her lot in unlife. First of all, if all being a zombie does is make you hungry and achey, then I'm a goddamn zombie. Second of all, stop bitching and moaning! This is supposed to be a zombie movie!
Not only is it supposed to be a zombie movie, it's supposed to be a Return Of The Living Dead movie. The first Return... is considered a punk rock zombie movie. It's simultaneous dumb fun and "we're all doomed" nihilism and it's the reason cartoons always have zombies saying "Brains!" (To be honest, I wasn't really a fan, but it was better than this nonsense.)
The second Return... is more mainstream, but still a hell of a lot of fun.
This movie isn't any of those things. It's annoying. It's overlong and it's dull and it takes too much time to get to the ending where the zombies show up. By then you don't care anyway, you just want it to be over.

End of line.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Friday The 13th

Second on the low-on-plot, high-on-carnage double feature I watched last night (I love it when Movie Lottery picks a theme for me), we have Jason Voorhees 2.0.
Some guy is looking for his sister who went missing and a bunch of assface fratboys and their dumbshit girlfriends are staying at a fancyass summer house, which happens to be in the same general area. When the assfaceiest of the fratboys becomes too much of an assface, the least dumbshit of the girls goes off with the sister seeker to help him out. Meanwhile, Jason is stalking through the shadows killing everything that talks, most of whom deserve it.
Again, there isn't a whole lot of plot. There's some gratuitous sex and nudity (why did that chick take her top off to go water skiing? Because she could), there's some drug use, there's even some dialogue scenes, but the main point of the movie is Jason stalking through the woods and slaughtering everyone. Which he does with gusto. And it's awesome.
It was weird how much this had in common with Field Of Screams, actually. It had a little more plot, and some of the machete fodder were actually kind of likeable (to make up for that they had the Assfaceiest Fratboy, upon whom I would have wished a slow and prolonged death even if he weren't in a slasher movie), and it definitely wasn't a comedy. But it had the same setup:
"Here are the basic plot points you need to know. Good, that's out of the way. Now start the killing machine!"
Good times.

End of line.

2001 Maniacs: Field Of Screams

The vengeful ghost residents of Pleasant Valley have just been told they can't hold their Guts 'N Glory Jamboree anymore because the cop they've been bribing is being investigated by the FBI. So they kill his ass and then take to the road and settle in Iowa, where they hijack the crew of a parody of The Simple Life.
And that's about it for plot. There really isn't one. 2001 Maniacs didn't really have a plot, either. So it's not really a problem. The problem I have with this (and the first) movie are how long it takes to really start getting to the carnage. There's a couple of kills early in the movie, but then there's a lot of talk and "character development" and gratuitous sex. Which is fine, but there's too much of it. I came here for carnage, damn it!
Oh well, once the blood really starts flowing it's relentless and I love that.
Field Of Screams is less cohesive than its predecessor and there was one Big Lipped Alligator Moment that just bugged me: Where do spirits from the Civil War get references to 1980s pop culture? There's a part where Granny Boone and three other Pleasant Valley residents put on tights and ripped sweatshirts and do a Flashdance dance while Granny Boone sings a song about being cannibals to the tune of Maniac. Nope. I ain't buying it. Sure, the whole movie's pretty dopey, but that one's just too stupid. It serves no purpose and it isn't as funny as it's supposed to be.
Bill Moseley did a fine job taking over for Robert Englund. I'm still anxiously awaiting the day they're actually in a movie together (this was supposed to be it, but Robert Englund had to drop out) but until then I'll have to settle for seeing them both play the same part. Much as I love Bill Moseley, I wasn't completely convinced he'd work as Mayor Buckman. I was wrong; he brought his glorious hamminess and nobody else could deliver the line "Hey two eyes; suck my Dixie!" with such panache.
I also love Lin Shaye in everything I see her in and, Flashdance sequence aside, she's totally awesome in this. Kevin "Nivek Ogre" Ogilvie was also a lot of fun, even though Doc Harper was pretty much just Pavi again, only without the accent and stolen face. No worries, though. We all love The Pavi.
As for the "good guys," I hated them all. I love it when you don't feel sorry to see any of them go. Every single crew member of The Simple Parody (I can't remember what they actually called the show) was disgusting and awful; the only two who I didn't mind were Rome and Tina Sheraton, the Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie knockoffs; they had no real personality traits other than being kind of dumb. The rest of them, though, were fucking awful, and it just made all the waiting for the killing to really start all the more annoying.
So it's a little slow and a lot plotless, but who cares? It's fun!

End of line.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Simpsons: An Uncensored, Unauthorized History

Before I talk about the book, I just want to say I'm really tired of defending new episodes of The Simpsons to people who bitch about them. Here is my stance:
All shows evolve. They have to. The Simpsons has been on for more than twenty years; if it were exactly the same as it was in its "golden age" people would complain that it hadn't changed, that it had become stagnant. So, yes, The Simpsons is different than it used to be. Yes, the humor is not the same style it once was. Whether anybody believes me or not, that is in the show's favor. And if I'm the only person who still thinks it's funny, so be it.
Author John Ortved doesn't think The Simpsons is funny anymore. And he's allowed to think that. One of the problems I have with this book, though, is he won't quit fucking harping on new seasons. He also uses the show's drop in ratings as "proof" that it's not funny anymore. If that were true, then I could use the same argument to "prove" that the years he kept referring to as the "golden age" weren't funny, either, because they occured after the whole "Bartmania" thing. I'm sure when The Simpsons wasn't the hugest fad around anymore, the ratings dropped. So there.
A lot of the book focused on the business behind the show and who on staff hated who else on staff. In other words, crap I don't give a fuck about.
He talked a lot about how people got mad and thought Matt Groening took more credit for The Simpsons than he rightfully should have. Admittedly, I've had similar thoughts for years. However, I also like Matt Groening and I think his biggest job on The Simpsons is "take credit guy." Yes, the entire staff deserves respect, but the general public likes to have one person that they can associate with a TV show or whatever. That's why so many bands have "the face." Yes, Aerosmith is very famous, but most people know them as Stephen Tyler and some other dudes. It's just how things go sometimes. And I happen to like Matt Groening, I think he's a cool guy (not like I know him; I just think he seems like a nice guy), so when the book decided to go on and on about "he took way too much credit and people got pissed off" I got defensive.
I actually got defensive whenever I felt like they had started picking on someone, which happened a lot, especially in the earlier chapters. Regardless of whether I even knew who they were talking about, I'd be on their side if I felt like they were being attacked.
I'm not even going to address my distaste for the chapters about business, other than to say they pretty much went straight over my head and they bored me.
I completely disagree with the book that South Park and Family Guy "have more laughs per episode" than new episodes of The Simpsons. I do like Family Guy and I used to be a huge South Park fan but I don't like them as much as The Simpsons.
The thing about South Park is it's gotten preachier than preachy. There was always a moral at the end of the episode but the recent episodes I've seen are nothing but moral and, as far as I'm concerned, they've given up on the "being funny" aspect of the show to focus entirely on "ramming a message down your throat." I'm sad that South Park has gone that direction but, like I was saying earlier, every show has to evolve and that was the path they took. Not to my taste, but I know people are still watching it, so good for them.
In the book Matt Stone is quoted as saying "...The Simpsons doesn't ever promise to do anything more than make you laugh. There's social satire in it, social commentary, deeper themes in it, but what's great about The Simpsons is it says up front, 'All we're gonna do is make you laugh.' That's a purely noble cause, I think." Then why don't you try it yourself sometime, Matt?
Family Guy is a pretty good show, but I kind of stopped watching after ... I don't even remember what episodes they were. In one of them the Griffins are driving somewhere and they all start singing The Rose. And that's the gag. They all sing The Rose in its entirity. Never mind the fact that that's not funny and The Rose is, in my opinion, not a fucking dull song. They stop the entire episode dead for almost five minutes to sing a boring song.
And then! There was another episode that involved Mister Herbert, the pedophile up the street (he's a semi-regular character who I happen to fucking hate), also stops the show dead in its tracks to sing a pre-existing song in its entirity. But to add insult to injury, he doesn't sing a song I think is boring. He sings Somewhere That's Green. My favorite song from Little Shop Of Horrors (we all know how I feel about Little Shop); my karaoke standby song. It was horrifying. It actually made me feel ill and depressed and it's probably the main reason I stopped watching Family Guy on a regular basis. Maybe it's a petty and childish reaction, but I don't care. I felt like Family Guy was going downhill for a while at that point, and that moment just sealed it for me.
Because when Family Guy first came back after being cancelled, it was really good. For a while. Those were some of the best episodes I've seen. But after maybe one and a half seasons I felt like the writers somehow got lazy while, at the same time, they were trying way too hard. Almost every joke tried to be over the top offensive because "Well, we were uncancelled, we can do whatever we want. We don't have to try anymore because if you cancel us again, fans will bitch and moan until you bring us back again. So we'll be, in turns, disgusting, offensive and boring and there's nothing you can do about it."
I will say I liked what Seth MacFarlane had to say in the book. He acknowledged that his show and The Simpsons make fun of each other a lot, but he thinks that, while it can get mean spirited, it's all in good fun and doesn't really stick. My first reaction was sarcasm. "Oh yeah, that scene where Quagmire sleeps with Marge and then kills the entire family (Maggie included; it's off screen, but it's still really disturbing), that was all in good fun." If you ignore that one instance, though (they never showed that scene in prime time; Adult Swim shows it), he's probably right. And there's a big, long, quote from him somewhere in the book that I really liked, but I'm too lazy to quote it myself. It begins on page two hundred eighty seven and continues onto the next page.
And, anyway, this review was supposed to be of an unauthorized history of The Simpsons, not a couple of other animated series.
There were parts of the book I liked. The chapter about guest voices was interesting and I really liked the chapter dedicated to Conan O'Brien. (Golly, I wonder why?) There was also a chapter about a couple of other writers, George Meyer and John Schwartzwelder, that was also really cool to read. And one of the quotes in that chapter actually, for lack of a better word, name dropped one of my favorite moments of The Simpsons, which Schwartzwelder wrote:
In the Whacking Day episode, Homer sets up event parking on his lawn, with a sign that says "Parking: $10 per axle." A car drives up that's like a combination limo and sports car, with, like, a bajillion axles. Homer, as he is wont to do, yells "Woo hoo!" and the man driving the car yells "Hooray!" It's charming and it's absurd. It's cracks me up every time.
So there were good spots of the book. And I feel like the people quoted in the book who worked on The Simpsons and who lament that it's not what it once was, they have every right to complain.
I guess the author has every right to complain, too, if he doesn't like the newer seasons. I just wish he hadn't made that opinion so blatantly obvious throughout the course of the book.
I've saved my biggest complaint for last: John Ortved doesn't know what he's talking about.
I'm not kidding, the book is filled with little mistakes that the majority of Simpsons fans wouldn't make.
On page six he claims that "Maggie killed a man." No she didn't. Maggie shot a man. Mr. Burns is still alive.
On page two hundred sixty nine he claims that, in the episode about gay marriage, Marge's sister Selma comes out of the closet. No she doesn't. Marge's sister Patty comes out of the closet. What Selma does in the gay marriage episode is get an annulment from Disco Stu.
I think the most egregious error, though, is scattered throughout the book. John Ortved does not know Smithers's first name. Every time he's mentioned in the book (even when calling him Smithers would've been more appropriate since that's the name he generally goes by) Ortved refers to Smithers as "Wayland."
Smithers's first name is Waylon. Waylon Smithers.
Wayland isn't a name! It's an amusement park for people with no direction in their lives.
Should people really trust a guy who, when writing a book about The Simpsons, couldn't bothered to do thirty seconds of research to learn how to spell Waylon?

End of line.