Thursday, December 29, 2011

Five Across The Eyes

Five Across The Eyes is the story of five vapid, shrieking moron girls (collectively they have maybe, maybe two brain cells) and the horrible screaming shrew who wants to kill them with a shotgun for hit and running her parked car.
The movie succeeds in making the viewer intensely, immediately hate every single character. Within thirty seconds of the opening you desperately want to see all five moron girls have their faces blown off (well before the introduction of Shotgun Lady is even hinted at).
Unfortunately, the Shotgun Lady is just as hateful as the teenagers and you spend the whole movie waiting for someone (preferrably a calm, jovial man (and yes, I mean that in the most mysogynistic way possible; this movie makes me hate women) with a machete and a penchant for torture) to come along and put all of them out of my misery.
The only reason I don't hate this movie more than Paranormal Activity is because this piece of shit didn't make millions of dollars for being boring, shrill and terrible.
Oh, Calm And Jovial Machete Man, where are you?
Die, you screechy bitchwads, die!!!

End of line.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Abomination

Cody Lee's mom coughed up a "tumor" one night, which came to life and fed itself to Cody while he slept. Then he coughed it up, became possessed by it, put on sunglasses to prove that he's evil now and then went around killing people to feed to his ever-growing "tumor".
The Abomination is low budget, poorly acted, poorly written, full of religious jargle I didn't really understand and long, drawn out boring parts. It was filmed without sound, with dialogue dubbed in later. There are scenes of people just screaming, which is really hard to listen to, and it is in no way a good movie.
However, there is something about this lousy, terrible movie that made me want to watch it all the way to the end. More than that, there's a scene that genuinely creeped me out:
Cody is in the kitchen. The walls and cupboards are spattered with blood and the many giant, slimy, bloody puppet mouths of the abomination are emerging from various cupboards and washing machines. There's a bloody skull and hand on the table, along with a washtub filled with soggy yellow sheets that I guess are supposed to look like guts, which he's stirring and feeding to the monster with a pitchfork.
It felt like a room in a haunted house walk through. Which maybe isn't saying much; a lot of walk through haunted houses are pretty lame. But it was just tableauy and unsettling enough to be a gorgeously horrific moment in an otherwise lousy movie. Much as I may make fun of The Abomination as a whole (I think it would make a good episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 if it weren't so damn gory), that one scene will haunt me for all my days. I don't really know why, but it had an intangible creepiness that really got to me.
Back before I used to watch horror movies, my brother used to try a lot to get me to watch The Abomination. He tried to convince me that the special effects were so crummy that it wouldn't scare me. Having seen it now, I can safely say I was right to not watch it back then. It would have scared the crap out of me. I was a coward for a very long time.
I'm not entirely sure what changed that turned me into the gorehound I've become.

End of line.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The 2011 Movie Countdown

Well, this year is almost over. It started out good but the past couple of months have been crapballs and I'm looking forward to next year, when the last month or so will bring armageddon to the Aztecs or something.
I'd been planning on writing a sort of look back at what this year has been like for me, but I don't remember most of it. Drag queens gave me a makeover, I self-published a book (it's called Sunny Ella, which is a stupid title but you should read it anyway), I didn't go to nearly as many concerts as I would have liked but I did go to a few, I was a counselor at my friends' Unitarian church camp again, two of my best friends got married, my grandpa died and I read more than I think I have in recent years.
I realized last night that television holds almost no interest for me anymore. I used to be one of those people who had to have it on almost all the time but lately I'm happier ignoring it. The only thing I watch with any regularity is The Simpsons. I didn't even watch the second half of season four of Leverage because I just didn't feel like watching television.
Anyway, that's neither here nor there.
The reason I've really gathered me all here today is to count down the top twenty movies of 2011. Why twenty? Because that's how many new movies I saw this year. (It was nineteen until very late last night; more on that when we get to it.)
Further ado is for suckers:

20) Puss In Boots - Looking back on my initial review, sometimes I think I may have been a bit harsh on Puss In Boots. I mean, as people like to point out to me, it is just a kids movie. Then I remember that's the whole attitude I have a problem with. "It's just a kids movie" shouldn't be a phrase. Why do little kids have to get shafted in the movie selection department? They're not idiots and they deserve better than this.
19) The Bleeding House - I actually only watched this movie last night because it was released in 2011 and I needed a twentieth movie for this list (I wanted it to be even), which I was determined to write today for some reason. It was terrible. I've already pretty much forgotten I saw it.
18) Hanna - The only good things about this movie are the first twenty minutes and the fact that every time I see the title I get the Freelance Whales song Hannah running through my head.
17) Cowboys And Aliens - Cowboys And Aliens was dumb fun the first time, although even then I realized everything involving the token chick was eyerollingly cliched. The problem was seeing it again, which is when I noticed it's impossible to give a damn about any character in this movie that isn't played by Sam Rockwell (which is most of them). And speaking of characters I don't like...
16) Thor - had several of them. Especially Thor. But especially Natalie Portman. But especially Thor. You know what? Call it a draw. I hate them both. Too bad they didn't make a movie called Loki And Thor's Four Warrior Friends Whose Names I Forgot. That movie would have kicked ass.
15) Scream 4 - Okay, I'm going to say this again because I don't think Kevin Williamson heard me the first time: Peeping Tom is not the correct answer to "What was the movie that started the slasher craze?" for several reasons. REASON ONE: The slasher craze didn't really begin until the late nineteen seventies and early nineteen eighties, after several other highly influential and far more "slashery" movies had been released. REASON TWO: There is no true answer to that question; the entire subject is debateable. REASON THREE: Peeping Tom and Psycho came out the same year and, while Psycho was a huge hit, Peeping Tom destroyed Michael Powell's career and wasn't given accolades until at least a decade (probably longer) after the damage was done. There are a lot of other reasons why I didn't like Scream 4, but that one damn little trivia question and it's snotty-ass answer makes me want a backalley boxing match with Kevin Williamson, where I will win with the power of nerdgirl rage.
14) Kung Fu Panda 2 - Sure, it was uneven. Sure, it made me cry. Sure, it barely had a plot and sure, I probably should have gotten as mad at this for being insulting to childrens' intelligence as I did at Puss In Boots. But for some reason I can't. I don't know if it's the awesome Gary Oldman villain or the fact that at least it was well made enough to stir up my emotions and make me weepy, but I just don't have that vitriol for Kung Fu Panda 2. It doesn't deserve my anger.
13) A Very Harold And Kumar 3-D Christmas - Wafflebot!!! Everything else in the movie (about half of which is funny and half of which is not) is completely irrelevant because Wafflebot.
12) Arthur - It's amazing how high up on this list this one ended up being, considering I only went to see it 'cause Lauren wanted to go, Russell Brand is by reputation the most irritating man alive (a reputation not helped by the fact that he married the most irritating woman alive) and I generally hate romantic comedies. Arthur was cute, though. Russell Brand was actually charming and very funny (which I was not expecting) and I'd even watch it again if circumstances led me to that point.
11) Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - Yes, it is the worst of the Pirates movies. Yes, I want to beat that damn mermaid subplot to death with a shovel for being pointless and grinding the movie to a screeching halt. Yes, I hate Penelope Cruz's character for actually being a screeching halt. However, there is still a lot of good, fun stuff in this movie. Barbossa, obviously, and The Spaniard (or whatever his nonname was). And Blackbeard and Gibbs and Jack Sparrow and Scrum ... basically every part of this movie that doesn't involve any form of woman is awesome. A woman's place is outside of the pirate movie, apparently. ... Look, all I'm saying is quit putting a bunch of boringass romance in my action movies!
10) Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop - I didn't read the thread because I didn't care to read a bunch of other people arguing (which is what I'm sure it was), but the other day on IMDB I saw a message board post titled "Conan seemed like kind of a dick" or something like that. I want to address that here: Yes, he did. However, name me one person who isn't at any point "kind of a dick." Nobody is one hundred percent nice all the time. When you see Conan O'Brien hosting a television show, he's being paid to be nice to people. That's his job. No matter how much of himself he brings to the role, he's still playing the part of talk show host and talk show hosts have to play nice. In this documentary, he's not playing that part. He's simply being himself. And, like all people, he has moments of jerkitude and, like a lot of people, he has kind of a mean sense of humor. So when he's pretending to fire his staff for bringing him fish with butter sauce or when he's complaining that he has to talk to so many strangers when all he wants to do is relax, that's not "being a dick." That's "being a person."
9) Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy - The fact that I didn't understand this movie and yet still think about it says quite a lot. I think I want to understand it. Maybe I should see it again. (I'd also like to point out that both Kung Fu Panda 2 and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy have Gary Oldman in them.)
8) Everyday Sunshine: The Story Of Fishbone - Okay, I guess technically this one was released in 2010 (at least at movie festivals) but I saw it in the theater in 2011 so it counts. And it singlehandedly made me a Fishbone fan. I only wish Gwen Stefani and Eugene Hutz could have swapped amounts of screentime.
7) X-Men First Class - It's weird, but as I get closer to the number one spot on this list, I have less and less to say about the movies. It's really hard for me to write much of anything at all unless something pisses me off, apparently.
6) Horrible Bosses - I don't actually remember much of Horrible Bosses but I do remember laughing all the way through. And I love Charlie Day.
5) Fright Night - One of the few remakes done right (yeah, there are flaws but compared to A Remake On Elm Street, this movie is brilliant). The moment they release a "double feature" DVD of both the original and this version of Fright Night, I'm buying it. (I'd also like to point out that both Horrible Bosses and Fright Night have Colin Farrell in them.)
4) Hugo - I think the only reason Hugo isn't slightly higher on the list (in other words, in the number three spot 'cause two and one were reserved a while ago) is because it does have those chase scenes where I feel like it falls down and becomes a bore.
3) Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows - On the other hand, I was not bored once by Sherlock Holmes. Of course, I've only seen it once so far. The second time might have some slow bits. On the other hand, I've also seen Hugo once, too and I noticed the slow bits there. (I'd also like to point out that both Hugo and Sherlock Holmes feature Jude Law in rare instances where he doesn't skeeve me out.)
2) Drive - I considered putting Drive in the number one spot. It totally blew me away. I'm a little bit obsessed with it because it was just so enthralling.
1) Insidious - However, I have to be honest with myself: I just enjoyed Insidious more. Rare these days is the horror movie that actually scares me. I got almost no sleep the first time I saw Insidious. Every time I closed my eyes, all I could see were those doll people.

End of line.

The Bleeding House

I should have just watched American again.
The Bleeding House is about an on-edge family with a deep dark secret or some crap like that, whose home is invaded by a nutball in a white suit who talks like Foghorn Leghorn.
The movie wastes a lot of time pretending that Foghorn isn't a nutball (trying to make him seem like just some friendly rube) when anybody who's ever seen a movie can tell immediately that the guy's off his rocker. (Unlike the moral at the beginning of Beauty And The Beast, in the movies all strangers looking for help are actually out to kill you.)
I almost felt like I was watching Dee Snyder's Strangeland again, except instead of it being Dee Snyder not shutting up about the spirituality of piercings, it was Foghorn Leghorn not shutting up about some sort of religious redemption stuff that at first went over my head but eventually just turned into white noise. I'm not kidding, it got to the point where my brain wasn't registering what he was saying as words anymore.
And that's the movie's biggest flaw (nevermind the fact that it's boring and the big reveals weren't all that big): it can talk all it wants, but it can't make the audience listen.
I'm not even sure if we were supposed to be listening. Were the scriptwriters trying to make a point? If they were, they didn't do a very good job of it. There was no substance or clear message or anything; it was just a guy talking and I'm pretty sure he understood what he was talking about, but I'll be dipped if I comprehended a syllable of it.

End of line.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

American: The Bill Hicks Story

Bill Hicks is possibly the biggest inspiration in my life. I have never known of a more intelligent, honest, funny human being. He lived more in his thirty two years than I may ever live, good times, bad times and both at once. He worked for what he wanted, he was never anything other than what himself and if it's possible to be in love with a person who died well before you knew he existed at all, then I am in love with Bill Hicks.
It's not that I aspire to be just like him; it's that he inspires me to be just like me, but the smarter, harder-working version of me that I know exists but don't let come out much because I'm afraid of her.
American: The Bill Hicks Story is exactly what the name implies: it is the story of Bill Hicks, told in photographs, live footage and interviews with his friends and family. It's beautifully put together. It's a long-ish movie, but I wish it had been longer. I feel like there was more that could have been said.
On the other hand, I can't think of anything else to say, either. I want everyone to watch this movie and maybe feel a shred of that intangible joy (because he was there and will always be there) and frustration (because he is gone and will be gone from now on) that I feel.

End of line.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

Yes! Fuck yes!! This is so up my alley!
Sherlock Holmes is investigating a series of bombings. John Watson is getting married. A Romani fortune teller named Sim is looking for her brother. Professor James Moriarty is a jerk. Mycroft Holmes is entertaining.
Things explode a lot, Robert Downey Jr. is attractive, the dialogue is quickly paced, there are more explosions, a lot of well-choreographed fight sequences, more action and explosions, some more dialogue, Robert Downey Jr. continues to be attractive, I spend an entire scene wanting to yell at the characters to hurry up and do what I already know they're going to do, the plot twists about, Stephen Fry is hilarious, more explosions, more explosions, dialogue and the end.
Fucking fantastic.

End of line.

Made In America

I actually saw this movie in the theaters back in 1990 or whenever it was it came out, but since then I completely forgot it existed until last night when there was nothing better to watch at my friend's house.
The movie is about a girl who finds out her sperm donor father is a white guy (the girl and her mother are black) and wacky hijinks ensue.
And by "wacky hijinks" I mean "comedy racism." The mom is played by Whoopi Goldberg who seems to hate pretty much all white people; the scene where her daughter tells her "I met my dad and he's white," their reaction is essentially "THIS IS THE WORST THING TO EVER HAPPEN IN HISTORY!" It was really weird.
In fact, every single character, at every turn, did and said such weirdly stupid things that I couldn't fathom how this movie got made in the first place. I spent the whole movie sitting there thinking "Well, that was a stupid thing to do. That was a stupid thing to say. Nobody would handle this situation this way." And then it eventually turned from "look at the funny, poorly handled race relations" to "romantic comedy, sort of" and I lost what little interest I had in the movie.
There were a couple scenes where White Dad is filming commercials for his used car dealership with giant animals (a bear and an elephant). I liked those scenes. I'm a big fan of giant animals that can kill you.

End of line.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Human Centipede: First Sequence

The Human Centipede is one of those movies that didn't really hold any interest for me (I generally don't go for medical horror), but I felt obligated to watch it because it's become an important and polarizing movie in its genre and, as a horror fan, I need to know where I stand on such issues.
The movie is about a German scientist who kidnaps some people so he can turn them into conjoined triplets, connected at the digestive system. This is a movie that apparently made Eli Roth throw up and made my brother fall asleep from boredom.
As often happens with "either your love it or you hate it" movies, I thought it was okay. It was interesting and it was definitely nothing I'd ever seen before, so kudos to Tom Six for doing something different. It was certainly bleak, the concept was simultaneously disgusting and thought provoking, and they threw in a surgery scene so I'd have a few minutes of watching through my fingers because I can't handle that kind of thing.
That being said, I don't think this one's going to leave much of an impression on me. I kind of feel the same way I felt after watching Martyrs: the movie had my complete attention while I was watching it, it was very interesting, it'll be on my mind for a while and in two days I'm probably going to forget that I saw it.
Maybe the movie couldn't live up to its hype. Maybe I'm just hard to impress. Maybe a third thing. I don't know.
I'm just glad I've seen it because now I know. I have seen The Human Centipede and I can join in conversations about it, should the need arise.

End of line.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Top Eleven Christmas Movies

It's December. Which means it's Christmastime!!! I love Christmas! I'm not a religious person, never have been, but I adore everything about the holidays: the music, the decorations, the cold weather, the spirit of the season, the abundance of delicious foods, all of it.
I also love Christmas movies, which is why I bring you now my Top Eleven Favorite Christmas Movies (And TV Specials). In alphabetical order, because I can't bring myself to rank them.

A Charlie Brown Christmas - I can't explain it, but that's okay. I shouldn't have to. It's a classic.
A Garfield Christmas - Not considered quite as classic as A Charlie Brown Christmas, but to me they go hand in hand (probably because we had them both on tape when I was growing up). It's more sentimental than one would expect from anything Garfield related and it makes me very happy. Bonus points for having simple little get-stuck-in-your-head musical numbers.
Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas - If I were ranking these, it's most likely Emmet Otter would be in the number one spot. I was quite bummed when a friend of mine pointed out that it's basically The Gift Of The Magi, because I hadn't really noticed the similarity, and I happen to hate that story. Emmet Otter is what The Gift Of The Magi would be if it were heartwarming and worth your time (as opposed to depressing and pointless).
How The Grinch Stole Christmas - Boris Karloff, Thurl Ravenscroft and Dr. Seuss (plus, you know, a good story that has a good, solid "meaning of Christmas" moral without being preachy about it). There's no way that can go wrong.
Love Actually - For the most part, I hate romantic comedies. And it's true that I have to really be in the mood for this movie (trying to watch it when I'm not in the mood ends with a strong desire to punch everybody involved. Even Colin Firth). But when I'm in the mood, this is the perfect harmless, plotless piece of Christmas fluff. It's a marshmallow of a movie.
Mickey's Christmas Carol - This is the first version of A Christmas Carol I remember seeing, and it's still so incredibly good. And very, very nostalgic; I can say every word right along with it.
Scrooged - A 1980s Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray back when he was funny and Carol Kane hitting him with a toaster. It's so funny, so dark, so good. They don't make movies like this anymore.
The Bishop's Wife - David Niven is a bishop having a crisis of faith, Cary Grant is an angel sent to help him out. When I was a little kid I went through a phase where I refused to watch movies in black and white. The Bishop's Wife and The Marx Brothers worked in tandem to break me out of that habit.
The Muppet Christmas Carol - Michael Caine is filmdom's best Ebenezer Scrooge, hands down. Yes, this movie contains one of the most heartbreaking songs ever written and no, that doesn't make me hate the movie because the rest of it is good enough to overcome making me cry like a little sissy girl (which is more than I can say for Toy Story 2).
The Nightmare Before Christmas - I honestly forget when I'm not watching it how good this movie really is. I know I like most of the songs in it, but usually I remember Nightmare Before Christmas as being far worse than it actually is (probably because of my adversarial relationship with Tim Burton and his legions of fans).
White Christmas - Last year I was wrapping presents and watching White Christmas. When the movie ended I was about halfway done with my wrapping. I scoured the house's collection of Christmas movies, trying to decide what to watch next, then put on White Christmas again. I think that sums it up.

Honorable Mention:
A Christmas Carol (any version) - As evidenced by the fact that I have three different versions of this story in my top eleven list, I love A Christmas Carol and will watch any variation thereof.
Arthur Christmas - I haven't seen this one yet, but I have it on good authority that it's much, much better than the previews would have you believe. I'm looking forward to seeing it.
Carol For Another Christmas - I've never seen this movie and I don't know if I ever will. According to my mom, Rod Serling was involved with it. I don't know the story or anything about it really, other than that its theme music is my favorite Christmas song. And that's all it needs to make the Honorable Mention list.
Desk Set - While not exactly a Christmas movie, Desk Set has a very memorable Christmas scene. And it's a damn good movie. Curfew shall not ring tonight.
Frosty The Snowman - I don't really like this special, but it does hold a special place in my heart for one reason: "Messy, messy, messy." It was hilarious to me as a child (I would watch the special up to that line and then turn it off and if given the opportunity, I'd do it again).
Inside - The most harrowing and brutal horror movie I've ever seen takes place on Christmas Eve. Whether that's good or bad depends on your taste, but it's definitely worth mentioning.
Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol - You know how The Muppet Christmas Carol has a heartbreaking song (When Love Is Gone) in it? So does Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (I'm All Alone In The World). And, while this version does have enough good moments that I do enjoy the movie, it's not quite good enough to completely overcome that song.
The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause - I hated this movie, as I hated the first The Santa Clause (never saw the third one). But it does have a scene where Evil Robot Tim Allen Santa Claus drinks hot chocolate for the first time that, for whatver reason, left me in teary eyed hysterics. It was the one bright spot in a terrible pool of mediocrity.
The Twilight Zone: The Night Of The Meek - If you ever want to make my dad cry, ask him about the Art Carney episode of The Twilight Zone. It turns him into a weepy mess every time. And I can't say I blame him.
The Year Without A Santa Claus - I've never been a Rankin Bass fan. I don't even really like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer (I honestly can't remember it after Herbie's song about being a misfit (I do love that song. "You can't fire me, I QUIT!"). It takes a weird turn and starts being about the abominable snowman ... what?!). The Year Without A Santa Claus, despite its depressing title (and a little kid singing Blue Christmas, thus fulfilling its Christmas movie duty of making me cry), has enough bright moments to almost win me over. I love the Snow Miser and Heat Miser songs (obviously) but my favorite song always gets cut from broadcast these days: the song Mrs. Claus sings about how she could be Santa this year.

And a best-of list just wouldn't be complete without its evil counterpart, the worst-of list. Here are my Ten Least Favorite Christmas Movies (And TV Specials):
A Chipmunk Christmas - There's a part where Dave says "I'm very disappointed in you, Alvin" that made me cry so much my mom ended up taping over the special so I wouldn't have to hear it again. I'm not kidding.
A Christmas Story - I will never, ever as long as I live understand why anybody likes this movie on any level. "Here's an hour and a half of people being miserable. Isn't that hilarious?" No. It's not. The very idea of this movie makes me angry. I'd rather watch every single other movie on this least-favorite list back to back than watch A Christmas Story once more. (I've seen it three times, which is five times too many.)
Santa Claws - Awful, stupid straight to video "horror" movie (it's really more of an excuse to get acrtesses naked next to Christmas trees) that was too boring to be scary or unintentionally funny or anything other than boring.
Silent Night Deadly Night 3: Better Watch Out - I love Bill Moseley. Everybody knows I love Bill Moseley. And, terrible as the first two Silent Night Deadly Nights are, at least they're not the third one (Bill Moseley in a brain hat stalking a blind girl with whom he has a psychic connection). Silent Night Deadly Night is disturbing, and the second one has some pretty good terrible dialogue (everybody loves "Garbage day!"). The third one is just stupid, not really related to the first two and I could drive a train through the plot.
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever - Way to try to ruin my favorite Christmas book, made-for-TV-movie-making jerks. I had no idea it was possible to make this story suck.
The Christmas Toy - If you asked me, I couldn't tell you the plot of this movie or anything about it other than reading the title is enough to make me tear up. I saw it a couple times when I was little and it made a strong enough impression of sadness that I refuse to watch it again, even though I'm curious to know what it was that made me cry so. (Not curious enough to find out, but curious.)
The Muppet Family Christmas - First of all, I don't care about Fraggle Rock at all (yes, my niece has the same name as a Fraggle, no that doesn't make me think the show isn't boring) and I'm pretty sure this special was made solely to promote Fraggle Rock. Worse, Camilla leaves Gonzo for a turkey. And at the end of the special, it stays that way. And that is why this special can go to hell and stay there.
The Polar Express - This movie is nothing but two hours of padding, which is really impressive for a movie that's only a hundred minutes long.
The Preacher's Wife - Who decided it would be a good idea to remake The Bishop's Wife by taking out everything that made the original a good movie and turning the angel into an out-and-out asshole?
The Small One - You know all that stuff I said about The Christmas Toy? That.

End of line.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


The theatrical title of this movie was Saw 3D and the video title is Saw: The Final Chapter. But seeing as I didn't watch it in 3-D and I found out about a week ago that an eighth Saw movie is being planned (more on that later) I've decided Saw VII (or Saw Seven, if you will) is the only proper name for this movie.
Since the first movie, I've been a great defender of the Saw series. The fact that I defend it as a series is saying quite a lot, actually, because usually when a movie gets to the point that it's a series (rather than a single or a duo) I've washed my hands of the whole thing. I'm a big fan of stopping at one sequel, if a sequel has to be made at all.
As far as I'm concerned, the Saw movies go like this:
Saw: Absolutely brilliant.
Saw II: Pretty good. Not great but it has its moments.
Saw III: Best in the series after the first one, in spite of the fact that I can't watch great swatches of it (the traps upset me and I can't handle surgery scenes).
Saw IV: Made me angry the first time but I've liked it better every subsequent viewing.
Saw V: Felt like a damn clip show. It should have been called Previously On Saw.
Saw VI: Back to form. Fifty times better than the fifth one.
Saw VII: Well, I guess I should stop stalling and jump into this review.
As a "Final Chapter" it's kinda ... underwhelming, I guess. Sure there was one pretty great setpiece (which involved a cheating girlfriend, her two boyfriends and three circular saws; it also had one hundred percent nothing to do with the rest of the movie; it existed solely to have a gory beginning and to show a girl wearing essentially just a bra and leggings) and I'll forgive almost any plot twist when they throw this music over it. (I actually didn't mind the twist but I have to wonder if it would hold up to scrutiny, and if it was planned earlier than the seventh film or if it was just thrown in there in order to have a twist.)
But the thing that made the original Saw so brilliant was that it was simple: two dudes trapped in a room with a mini tape player and a couple of saws. (Yeah, there was some other stuff about police investigations and a hostage situation, but those weaved into the guys-in-the-room story really well.) It was more plot driven than most people give it credit for and not nearly as gory as everyone claims. The violence was mainly implied and the blood didn't really start flowing until Saw II.
And that's kind of the problem; the rest of the series emulates Saw II much more than Saw. Much as I enjoy some of these elaborate and ultimately disgusting traps, I feel like the filmmakers lost the point a long time ago. It should be about the story. Sure, they tried to give the Saw movies a good storyline that extends over all the films and they do a good enough job that I haven't tried to find flaws in the story arc. I want the series to succeed in not being stupid.
But I'm mad at Saw Seven. I spent the whole movie missing the first film's simplicity.
Saw Seven is mainly about a self-help author who wrote a book about surviving one of Jigsaw's traps and (SPOILER: his book is nothing but lies, and so) he finds himself in a warehouse, going through a series of rooms wherein people he works with are stuck in traps from which he has to save them. Or not. Either way, he has to go through all these rooms in order to try to save his wife. who is also in a trap. Shades of Saws Three and Six.
Meanwhile, the police are doing their dangedest to track down and bring to justice Jigsaw's accomplice, who has been involving people in games willy nilly (rather than for Jigsaw's original purpose).
It wasn't quite the clip show that Saw Five was, but Saw Seven was weak and shrill and the traps weren't all that great. I couldn't watch the fishhook one or the teeth one and the rest of them, apart from the opening one, were pretty underwhelming. It had moments I liked (the gore was cool) but overall I wasn't happy with it.
What I'm less happy about is the talk of an eighth Saw movie.
Much as I love this series (hit-or-miss though it may be), I was thrilled when I found out the seventh was to be the last. I was proud of them for ending it, for knowing that the series had to end (even if they didn't realize it should have ended much sooner; sure, I enjoyed Saw Six but I do think the series should have stopped, at the latest, with Saw Four). I thought it was brilliant and admirable to have a Final Saw Movie.
I tried valiantly to defend the moviemakers' integrity when people scoffed at the idea of the seventh being the last. I went on and on about how, no, I had read an article in Fangoria about it and they all seem serious about ending it, that they all know it can't go on forever. And, of course, they've all gone on to make me look like a fool for believing in them.
I had forgotten, you see, that almost nobody makes movies because they want to tell a good story or because they have artistic integrity. People make movies to make money, audience members be damned.
"They'll go see what we tell them to go see and we'll make money off of it. They'll go see an eighth Saw movie because they all went to see seven other Saw movies. They're dumb, they'll recognize the title and they'll throw money at us for giving them something they're familiar with."
I don't want there to be a Saw Eight, and I hope very much that I will have the willpower to not see it (I know I'll be tempted by cool previews). I want to make my point (insignificant though it may be in the grand scheme of all the other people who will go see it) that the series should have ended.
Movie series all eventually need to end. Some movies don't warrant sequels at all.
For instance, Insidious was quite possibly the best new movie I saw this year. I heard recently a sequel is in the works and I am pissed. It stands so brilliantly, perfectly on its own. There's nothing more that needs to be said. Why fuck that up with a sequel?
... Actually, I felt the same thing about Saw, now that I think about it. James Wan and Leigh Whannell make great movies that don't need sequels. Dead Silence didn't have a sequel and that's a damn good movie. Saw had a bunch of sequels, but the original is so much better on its own.
Why don't people try and focus on making really good movies and telling really good stories and maybe, just maybe (for horror movies, anyway) trying to scare the fuck out of some audience members? Why not do that instead of making a bunch of sequels?
And who the hell told Diablo Cody she was allowed to write an Evil Dead remake?! Fuck her! Juno sucks and I will never forgive that bitch for writing it.

End of line.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


There's a certain feeling I get from books I read when I was a child (books like The Phantom Tollbooth, The Diamond In The Window, and those books by Edward Eager), a feeling that can only be described as magical.
Hugo feels like that.
I saw previews for it and thought it looked pretty good, with all the clockworks and all. But the previews don't do a good job of explaining what the movie's about, not even a little. 'Cause the previews make it look like Hugo is a movie about a kid named Hugo who lives in a train station, gets chased by Sacha Baron Cohen and tries to figure out how to fix a mechanical man he got from his father.
Those are all elements of the story, certainly, but that's not what the movie's about. I don't entirely know how to explain what the movie's actually about.
It's about people, I suppose. But that makes it sound boring.
It's about the movies, I suppose, but that makes it sound modern.
It's about finding your purpose, I suppose, but that makes it sound preachy.
I was blown away by this movie. I cried all the way through it, but in a good way. It's a movie that makes me happy, that makes me want to live in that world with those people.
I don't know who this Asa Butterfield kid is, but he's perfect as Hugo, and I wish him the best in his life. He's a talented actor and I hope he doesn't let that go to his head or mess him up in any way.
In fact, everybody in the movie is perfectly cast. I rolled my eyes at the idea of Sacha Baron Cohen as the station inspector simply because I tend to roll my eyes at the idea of Sacha Baron Cohen. That's unfair of me; just because I don't like Da Ali G Show doesn't mean the man's not talented. He's quite good in this movie.
As is Ben Kingsley, who is sometimes infuriating, sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes both at once. Even Jude Law was adorable, and I usually find him skeevy.
If I have a complaint about Hugo, it's that I felt like the scenes that the previews tended to focus on (Hugo being chased by the station inspector) ground the film to a halt. I suppose they were necessary, but they almost felt like they belonged in a different movie; they didn't give the audience anything about the characters to latch on to and they didn't have that sense of magic that the rest of the movie has; they were just there, getting in the way.
Other than that, though, Hugo is pretty much perfect. And don't let anybody call it a "children's" or even a "family" movie. Those terms always feel derogatory. Hugo is an all-ages movie; it has no age-specific target audience, it's simply something that anybody can enjoy.

End of line.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Psycho House

There are minor spoilers in this review, but how many people out there are actually planning on reading Psycho House (or knew it existed at all)?
Robert Bloch, at least when he wrote the Psycho trilogy, has a formula. He sets up a mystery, he spends a very long time following several characters and taking forever to say not much of anything. You can't try to solve the mystery yourself (isn't that the point of mystery novels?) because he deliberately withholds all clues from the reader, making the whol process of reading the book seem futile.
Then at the end he reveals that the murderer was a well-known and trusted character all along, logic be damned, and then spends a chapter or two explaining how the logic isn't being damned, how it all fit together.
It's an obnoxious formula, but a formula nonetheless.
I'm on to you, Robert Bloch.

End of line.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Psycho II

Two decades after Alfred Hitchcock released an incredibly successful film version of Psycho, author Robert Bloch wrote a Scream 3-style (actually, I guess Scream 3 is Psycho II-style) self-referentialish sequel, and it's just as pulpy and pseudo-intellectual as the first book.
At the start of the book, Norman Bates escapes the mental hospital in which he's been incarcerated for twenty years and the psychiatrist who'd been working with him goes off to find him, certain that Norman is headed to Hollywood to stop the movie being made based on his story.
In Hollywood, we meet a self-centered actress who cares more about her own big break than pretty much anything else (which would be fine if it weren't for the fact that I think Bloch was trying to make her a sympathetic character; he failed on all counts. She's awful), a scriptwriter who I think was supposed to have a personality but the author didn't do a very good job of giving him one, a producer who's such a stereotype that he's barely worth mentioning, a sleazy and violence-obsessed director, a washed-up leading man who took the part of Norman to get his career back on track and a washed-up former scriptwriter who runs a motel and puts Norman's doctor in room Number Six, the same room Norman put Mary Crane in at the Bates Motel in the first book (which has nothing to do with anything other than it's something I noticed. The phrase "Number Six" always jumps out at me for some reason. Golly, I can't imagine why).
From then on, a whole lot of nothing happens. I mean, I stuff happens, but none of it is as interesting or suspenseful as it should be. Maybe I'm just jaded but it really did feel like three hundred pages of nothin' goin' on:
The doctor sees Norman at the supermarket, the actress tries to seduce the doctor, the screenwriter tries his damnedest to have a personality, the actor gets a chapter or two from his point of view even though he's pretty much a pointless addition to the book's cast of characters.
That's part of the problem. There are too many characters and the plot is ... not convoluted exactly, but it seems to have a lot of plot threads that, while it's not that they don't go anywhere, they do seem pointless by book's end. I guess they're red herrings. It was just really hard to care about them even when they seemed like they might be important.
Psycho II's resolution is silly and makes no sense (and this is coming from a girl who likes the end of Haute Tension). Just like the first book, Bloch uses the last couple of chapters to explain everything with psychology mumbo jumbo. Unlike the first book (where the ending was spoiled from page one by the fact that I've seen the movie), Psycho II's ending was a surprise; the book kept me guessing the whole way through. I just didn't think the ending (or even the chapters leading up to it, really) was that good.
I'm thinking maybe I'm not a fan of Robert Bloch, which doesn't bode well for the third book in the series, Psycho House, which I will be reading next.
On the other hand, it might bode well for the movie sequel to Psycho, which has absolutely nothing to do with the book, and which I do plan on seeing at some point.

End of line.