Thursday, April 28, 2011

Alice In Wonderland

I've been somewhat obsessed with the Alice stories my entire life and, as a result, will watch pretty much any adaptation of them I can get my hands on.
This is not always necessarily a good thing.
Take, for instance, this 1950 adaptation that has some good elements (the girl who plays Alice is far too old but does a good job nonetheless) some pointless elements (the movie starts with Lewis Carroll wanting to get rid of the giant, loud bell at Oxford; that story goes nowhere) and, of course, some abject freaking terror.
All of the people and creatures Alice meets in Wonderland are played by stopmotion puppets that could give anybody nightmares. The White Rabbit is evil for no particular reason (no fooling; the main plot of the movie is him framing Alice with malice aforethought for stealing the Queen's tarts) and I think the scene where the Dutchess sings Speak Roughly To Your Little Boy is one of the creepiest things I've ever seen (her face looks like it's falling off, the baby truly is ugly and after every verse a wave of something that looks suspiciously like blood (it's supposed to be red pepper but I'm not buying it) washes over the screen).
None of the musical numbers are any good, either. They're very of their time, but in a completely forgettable way.
Most of the movie is forgettable, really, although I think for the time the special effects were quite good and I really liked the way they animated the scene where Alice first arrives in the room full of doors.

End of line.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

An Open Letter To Kevin Williamson

Yes, my review of Scream Four was an open letter to Kevin Williamson, too, but I have something more to say.
Occasionally people who I don't expect have a tendency to find my blog and I had a sudden strong feeling that Kevin Williamson would be one of those people. Just in case, I'd like to say the following:
If you, sir, have found my review of Scream Four and if it offended you, I apologize. I write what I'm feeling the moment I'm feeling it and often don't give myself time to dwell on movies. I like to strike while the iron is hot, as they say.
I did like Scream Four, but I did not love it, and I feel like it would have been much better had you done something entirely different.
I really do hate that whole "The Rules" thing, but I've hated it for years and years. I honestly do believe it's ruining horror movies.
I also hate Sidney Prescott, but that could be more my problem than the movies'.
While I'm here, I also hate the line "What's your favorite scary movie?" because scary is subjective and my favorite horror movie (in fact, my favorite movie) is House Of 1000 Corpses. I wouldn't say it's my favorite scary movie, though, because it does not scare me. Few movies do. But that doesn't mean I don't love horror movies.
Also, in the scene when Kirby is answering trivia questions, when Ghostface says "What's the remake of the movie where the killer-" and then Kirby rattles off the names of a bunch of movies that have been remade rather than let them finish the and then actually answer the damn question? That was annoying. I would have liked to know what the question was going to be. I enjoy trivia games and wanted a chance to play along.
Also, that "What movie started the slasher craze?" is a terrible question for a trivia game because it has no answer. It's entirely debateable. Some people believe it was Peeping Tom, some believe it was Psycho (the two of which came out the same year, by the way, and Psycho was far more popular so, even though Peeping Tom may have been released first, Psycho would be more likely for starting a new trend seeing as at the time all Peeping Tom did was ruin Michael Powell's career. It is a fine film and is considered a classic now, but it took decades for it to get the praise it deserved), some believe it was Black Christmas, which wasn't mentioned at all in the scene. You can't put that in your movie and call the answer absolute truth. Now a bunch of idiots who like to act like they know everything are going to go around spouting that as gospel without doing any real research.
Hey, what do you know, I'm getting worked up again. Sorry about that.
I started this letter as an apology and then ended up attacking you again. I didn't mean for that to happen.
Well, you got a reaction out of me, which is better than making a movie about which I can think of nothing to say. And Scream Four was definitely better than Paranormal Activity. And it might be better than the first Scream (though that isn't necessarily saying much; Scream Three is my favorite of the bunch. But I don't think you wrote that one.)
Anyway, I just wanted to say that, if you are reading this Kevin Williamson, I had no intention of offending you. I just wanted to get into an argument with your movie.

End of line.


Dear Kevin Williamson,
You and I need to have a talk.
First of all, there was one thing, one tiny thing, that I wanted from Scream Four, and you did not deliver it. You kind of pretended to deliver it, but pretending to do something and actually doing it are not the same things.
I'll let that slide, though. I will let go of that complaint, solid though it may be, to make a couple of larger complaints.
For instance, you know how the original Scream deals a lot with whiny teenagers? And how it's the worst Scream movie because of that? Maybe you should have kept that in mind when you decided to make Scream Four about whiny teenagers. I'm just thinking out loud here, but maybe whiny teenagers don't make good movies.
Not only that, but I see you won't let this whole "The Rules" thing die. I'm sorry Kevin Williamson, but you are ruining slasher movies. I know you think you're being clever, but you're not. You're hurting the genre. You're stabbing it in the face. And having the characters being self-aware about the fact that they're self-aware doesn't help. That actually makes it worse.
It is one thing for me, an audience member, to expect certain things from my horror movies. Not only to expect them but to talk about them with my friends. I've had conversations about the conventions of slasher movies. So, sure, I guess it'd make sense that you'd try to put some of that into your movie. Randy getting up in Scream and drunkenly rambling about "The Rules" of slasher movies is a fine scene, even if his rules are bullshit. (I dare you to name me a movie other than Scream where someone says "I'll be right back" and then gets killed (oh wait, that doesn't even happen in Scream). I can't think of a damn one and I'd love for you to enlighten me.)
The problem is, you brought it back in Scream Two, except this time it wasn't a drunken ramble. It loses its credibility when it's not a drunken ramble. It sounds stupid coming out of a sober guy.
Now that you're back on board for Scream Four you're not only clinging for dear life to your stupid "The Rules" nonsense, but you're clinging to it by acting like you don't care.
"The new rules are that there are no rules; nothing is new anymore and everything has to be turned on its head. Everything that's surprising is conventional. Remakes have to be just like the originals but bigger and beyonder." Yeah, yeah. "There are no rules, and here they are." Shall I tell Scott McCloud you're ripping him off?
It's time to break it off before I murder your stupid "The Rules" in their sleep.
Pointing out what everybody's thinking doesn't make the movie smart or clever. The false starts and "surprise" kills aren't surprising or funny.
And it's not conventional, either. It's that tragic bin at the end of the hall labeled "Trying Too Hard." And I think you live in there now. (Another example: giving a character in the first one the last name Loomis: bordering on clever (points off because John Carpenter did it twenty years before you). Giving a character in Scream Four the name Anthony Perkins: trying too hard.)
Scream Four wasn't predictable, but nothing about it came as a surprise, either. It simply existed. It was slow to get going but the kill scenes were mostly entertaining. I did feel bad for a few people who went under the knife but two or three of the kills were actually rather satisfying. It was just all that dialogue in the middle, spoken by whiny teenagers, that got on my nerves.
As far as movies go, it was fair. Okay, not great. Glad I saw it, won't see it again, will go see the sequel.
However, you killed off all but one of the new characters introduced in this movie. Deputy Hicks survives and we'd never seen her before, but every single other new character is dead. I heard somewhere that Scream Four is supposed to be the first of a brand new Scream trilogy but where could you possibly go from here?
Had you actually killed off Sidney Prescott like you should have, you could have had a new trilogy about her admittedly obnoxious snotbag of a cousin going on a quest to keep killing people in an attempt to solidify her newfound fame. 'Cause I imagine that brat wouldn't deal well with the realization that the attention doesn't last. You could have gotten an interesting couple of movies out of her trying to stay famous without people finding out she's a murderer.
But, no. Sidney lived, Dewey and Gail lived (which I'm okay with; they're the only characters from the first movie I like) and you killed the brat. Which is fine. It was definitely satisfying; she was a pain in the ass.
But now we're left with Sidney Prescott still being alive when, honestly, the one way you could have clung to your precious "The Rules" while acting like you don't care about them and still managed to look like you weren't trying too hard would have been to have the first scene of the movie be the murder of Sidney Prescott. (You did it with Drew Barrymore and Liev Schreiber, it would have made perfect sense to do it to Neve Campbell.)
But you didn't do that and now it's too late.
I'm not saying I could have done a better job than you, but I am saying you should have done a better job than you.
And I hate all that "The Rules" bullshit. I wish you'd never brought it up.

End of line.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Nor The Moon By Night

I have no idea what the name of this movie means, neither on its own nor in the context of the film. I think there might be a night scene and the moon is not involved. The movie does have an alternate title, Elephant Gun, and I don't get that one either. An elephant does get shot, but it's not important to the story and the movie isn't about the gun.
The movie is instead the classic love quadrangle:
Andrew and his brother Rusty work at a wildlife reserve in Africa. Andrew has a pen pal named Alice, to whom he plans on arranging to get engaged as soon as she can leave England. But there's a girl named Thea who lives near (on?) the reserve who has a crush on Andrew. And when Alice does get to Africa, Rusty wastes no time trying to steal her for himself. (He thought the whole arranged engagement to a pen pal was a bad idea anyway.)
The thing is, and this may just be me looking at a story from the 1950s from 2011 and being familiar with plot devices and character tropes, but it's obvious from the second Andrew calls Thea "Pigtails" and pulls her hat over her eyes that they're going to end up together, and that happens within thirty seconds of her first appearance in the movie.
What's far more curious to me is why Alice falls for Rusty. He's pretty much nothing but rude to her the day they meet but she still ends up kissing him that night. I don't know if she was just charmed by any sort of attention from a man or if she is just fond of guys who boss her around and act like she doesn't belong (and who later send a porcupine into her tent).
And it's more befuddling when she finally meets Andrew. He's just fallen out of a tree and is bleeding to death after a lion attack. He's barely functional at that point but he still manages to look her in the eye and, suave as can be, say "Pleased to meet you," before passing out. Even if I weren't all fangirly over Patrick McGoohan, I don't think I could resist an introduction like that.
"Do I go for the guy who's been a jerk to me since I showed up, or the guy who managed to be polite in spite of the fact that his brain was barely working due to pain and blood loss? ... Definitely the jerk."
It's okay, though, because as the movie wore on I realized I didn't like Alice. She was kind of awful. Thea, on the other hand, was rather fiesty. So the couples all ended up the way I thought they should have.
Strangely for being the main plot, it didn't take up much of the movie. Half the time the love quadrangle took a backseat to animal attacks and a subplot about the wife of a guy who was attacked (his eyes and tongue cut out; yeesk!) wanting revenge on whoever it was who did that to him.
Come to think of it, we never find out if that guy lived. Thanks a lot, Nor The Moon By Night, now I'm going to be worrying about Amos for the rest of my life (or at least until I forget about this movie; I don't think I'll watch it again).

End of line.

Jay Sherman Speaks On My Behalf

Do you like Cinderella but wish it contained more murder?
Sunny Ella by Sally Zybert (hey, that's me!) is the classic story of Cinderella, if in the classic story Ella lost her mind after years of abuse.
The book has it all: a fairy godmother, a wicked stepmother, a handsome prince, singing mice, unnecessary surgery, stabbing and a Rapunzel vampire story thrown in for good measure.
Sunny Ella is inexpensive, not very long and took me three years to finish. I'm very proud of it. It is available for various e-readers and in classic book form. Links to all possible purchasing options can be found at
My goal is for the book to become popular enough that Conan O'Brien will have me as a guest on his show. If it reaches Twilight-proportion popularity (you know, where people hate it without ever having read it), so much the better.
I love you.

End of line.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


I don't know what I was expecting Arthur to be. I never saw the original movie, had never seen Russell Brand in anything and only went to see it because Lauren wanted to see it. I don't like romantic comedies and I don't like Katie Perry (which doesn't have anything to do with Arthur, it's just that the only thing I knew going into the movie is that Russell Brand is married to her in real life).
Plotwise, Arthur was pretty predictable.
But that doesn't matter 'cause I really enjoyed it anyway, much more than I expected to. And I think that was entirely because of Russell Brand, who was far more charming and funny than I was expecting. He has great delivery; the best lines in the movie, that I think other actors might have really tried to punch, he sort of threw away, said them casually as if that's just how people talk. And it really worked.
Helen Mirren was good, Luis Guzman was good, I couldn't decide if the woman who played Naomi reminded me of Zooey Deschanel or Chloe Sevigny, and it was nice to finally see a movie that acknowledges how unpleasant Jennifer Garner is. I can't stand her (ever since she snottily told Conan O'Brien "Snuck isn't a word, Conan, and you went to Harvard and you should know that." What a bitch! ... Of course, then Conan brought out a dictionary and read her the definition of snuck, ("past or past part of sneak") which just makes me love him more).
My favorite part of Arthur, though, is that it made Frog And Toad a major plot point.
And if you aren't familiar with Frog And Toad, that's your problem.

End of line.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Hanna starts out really good (if you ignore all the deer guts in the first scene) and then, after about the twenty minute mark it all kinda goes ppbbbbbtttht.
I'd say it's when it gets to the desert is when it falls apart. 'Cause the introduction to Hanna and her father is interesting, the scenes of Hanna in the government facility are awesome (with an exclamation point) and then after that the movie sort of loses its way and becomes mostly about Hanna's interaction with a British family and, specifically, the obnoxious daughter in said family.
Honestly, if I had known it was a coming of age movie I wouldn't have watched it. Or I would have at least waited for it to come out on video. I couldn't have completely avoided it because Tom Hollander is in it. He had bleached hair and wore jogging suits and spoke with a German accent and he was not in it nearly enough. (I heart Tom Hollander!)
Cate Blanchett was okay; not great but acceptable. And it turns out I can't really tell the difference between Eric Bana and Jim Caveizel. (I figured out it was Eric Bana when I realized I wasn't getting smarm-tastic vibes from him. Jim Caviezel seriously skeeves me out. I don't know how he managed to get cast a Jesus.)
Luckily, the movie eventually gets to a point where Hanna ditches the family and the story turns back toward action, and I got interested again. I just could've done without most of that in between stuff.
Also, I still feel confused. The movie does make an attempt to explain things, and I think the people who made the movie thought they did a satisfactory job. I, however, am an easily confused moviegoer and I am still a little lost.
But I did love the action sequences. And Tom Hollander.

End of line.

Thursday, April 7, 2011


Now this is a fucking horror movie!
My stomach is still in my feet, my nailpolish is scraped down to practically nothing and every once in a while a chill runs through me for no real reason.
Insidious kind of reminded me of Ink, actually. Except instead of being a beautiful, heartwrenching drama it's the scariest movie in the world.
(Or maybe not, but it did scare the bejeezus out of me. And I'm pretty hard to scare.)
It is an insult to Insidious's integrity to have "by the makers of Paranormal Activity" in the trailer.
James Wan is an amazing director; I've now seen three of his movies and, honestly, he just keeps on getting better. I didn't see Death Sentence, but the three movies of his I have seen were all fantastic and Insidious may be my favorite. (We'll see. It could just be the enthusiasm of having just seen a movie I really enjoyed. I'll have to rewatch Saw and Dead Silence before I reach a decision.)
James Wan didn't do it alone, though. There's also Leigh Whannell's script, which was as good as the directing was. The acting was great (and that's coming from a girl who doesn't like Patrick Wilson or Rose Byrne); I absolutely adore Lin Shaye and that kid was adorable.
I'm honestly in the kind of mood where I could gush about how great the lighting was and how incredibly pretty the opening credits sequence is (it really is).
The problem is, I don't want to say anything about the plot. I don't want to give anything away. Insidious is a movie to be experienced and I wouldn't want to spoil that for anybody else.
I will say there were scenes that gave me a good Haunted Mansion vibe and there was one scene (and one shot in the scene) in particular that I will be seeing in my nightmares. I think it's the memory of that moment that is responsible for the occasional chills running through me.
I just want people to go see Insidious and be surprised, and be drawn in, and be frightened.

I also want people to not fucking talk during the movie.
I have come up with a brilliant plan and I think all multiplexes should follow it. Every movie should be shown on two screens simultaneously.
One auditorium is reserved for people who are just going to a movie for the sake of going to a movie, people who don't really care about the movie they're seeing, people who want to chatter.
The other auditorium is reserved for people who are going to see a movie because they genuinely want to see this movie, people who give a damn, people who have wanted to see Insidious since fucking August of last year and don't want to hear your stupidass remarks, which I can still hear, by the way, even though I moved far away from you and maybe you should keep your damn voice down!
... Sorry.
The only thing wrong with Insidious was the fact that I was the only person in the theater who was actually there to see it.

End of line.